CRIME

Prosecutor: Dad accused of son's death spoke of lake spirit

A New Jersey father authorities say killed his 3-year-old son because he had become an impediment to his relationship with a teenage girlfriend spoke about "the spirit of the lake" drawing the child to woods where he was found dead, a prosecutor suggested Thursday.

David Creato was secretly recorded speaking about the spirit about a month after the slaying, the child's mother, Samatha Denoto, said on the first day of testimony in the case against 23-year-old David Creato. Denoto said she recorded Creato at the request of criminal investigators.

Earlier, the prosecutor told jurors during opening statements that Creato was consumed with jealousy at the time his son's body was found in woods by the Cooper River near their Haddon Township home in October 2015. The prosecution says he killed Brendan to stop the 17-year-old girl, who was away at college, from leaving him.

Jurors heard Creato's 911 call in which he told police he had just woke up and his son was missing. "He wandered out of the house. He must have unlocked it and left."

The child was "very afraid of the dark," the prosecution said, and was wearing neon green socks on his feet that were clean, which would be impossible if he had walked.

Creato's lawyer told jurors there's a "complete lack of evidence" in the case. Attorney Richard Fuschino Jr. said Creato loved his son. Fuschino said that while his client's spiritual nature was strange, that doesn't make him guilty. Fuschino said Creato was honest and upfront with police.

Creato has pleaded not guilty.

Testimony is to resume Tuesday.