MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — Tanja Williams saw the aftermath of a fatal stabbing earlier this month at the Country Motel in the Rio Grande section of the township.
“It was a lot of blood up there,” said Williams, 35, who has lived at the motel for nearly two years. “Now, it’s really getting bad at this hotel.”
A man who identified himself as the motel’s owner but refused to give his name said the crime wasn’t the motel’s fault.
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — A major hearing was arranged Friday that could set the stage for a trial in the killing of 15-year-old Nicole Angstadt.
It was the first homicide in Cape May County since the December 2015 killing of 15-year-old Nicole Angstadt, which shocked the community and sparked several initiatives aimed at cleaning up so-called “voucher motels” in Rio Grande.
Township leaders say those efforts have worked, driving down crime by 40 percent in Rio Grande in the first three quarters of 2016 compared with the previous year. But there’s still work to be done, Mayor Michael Clark says.
“It’s not something that broke overnight, and it’s not something we’re going to fix overnight,” he said. “I think it’s continuing to get better.”
Gina Famiano, 34, a resident at the Country Motel, said crime is still a major issue in Rio Grande.
“I want to get out of here,” said Famiano, whose room is steps from the one where this month’s stabbing occur-red. “This area is bad.”
Authorities say Herbert Tozer, 51, of Rio Grande, stabbed Robert Niemezua, 45, also of Rio Grande, Jan. 10 at the motel. Niemezua died at the hospital two days later, according the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office.
Residents of the motel said the stabbing followed an argument between the two men over a woman, but Prosecutor Robert Taylor declined to provide more details on the suspected homicide.
Niemezua lived at the motel, and Tozer and the woman were his guests, residents said.
“He was like a regular guy,” Williams said. “I was really shocked when I heard it was him.”
Motels became an issue in Rio Grande after it was revealed Charles Mosley, one of two men charged with murder in Angstadt’s death, stayed in one briefly after moving to the area from North Jersey following his release from prison.
Many of the motels in Rio Grande — there are more than a dozen — accept the vouchers, which are part of an emergency housing program run by the Cape May County Board of Social Services and funded by $4 million per year by the federal government.
The man who identified himself as the owner of the Country Motel said he and “everybody” with motels in Rio Grande accept the vouchers.
After Angstadt’s death, township leaders introduced several initiatives aimed to combat crime in Rio Grande, especially near the intersection of Routes 9 and 47, where many of the motels are located.
Police Chief Chris Leusner said the efforts to prevent crime, including the introduction of a street-crimes unit and 24-hour police substation on Route 47, have helped, despite the recent fatal stabbing.
The street-crimes unit, which operates throughout the township, made 67 arrests — including 22 involving people staying at motels — and seized 2,882 bags of heroin and a handgun through the first three quarters of 2016, Leusner said.
The chief added Atlantic City Electric is in the final stage of installing new LED street lights in Rio Grande.
“We really have directed a lot of law enforcement into that area,” he said. “Things have been going in the right direction, and I expect them to continue.”