Revenge Motive in Woodbury Woman's Slaying: Prosecutors
Richard Santiago is charged with murder in the December 2012 stabbing death of Ramona Johnstone in Woodbury. She had testified against him during a 2006 trial in a different slaying.
Richard Santiago stabbed Ramona Johnstone 15 times because she'd testified against him in a 2006 trial that sent him to prison, prosecutors allege.
The prosecution believes Johnstone’s role as a witness in Santiago’s 2006 trial “is the reason he killed her,” Assistant Gloucester County Prosecutor Laurie Cimino said in court today, according to an account provided by the prosecutor's office.
The revelation came Monday during a bail hearing for Santiago, 60, in state Superior Court in Woodbury.
The bail hearing was merely a formality, as Santiago is in state prison on a parole violation unrelated to Johnstone's slaying and is not eligible for release on the probation-violation charge until September.
He has been held on $1 million bail since his arrest Dec. 21, 2012, on a murder charge in Johnstone's slaying.
The existing bail “is an appropriate amount under the facts and circumstances,” said state Superior Court Judge Christine Allen-Jackson, noting that Santiago has at least four prior indictable convictions.
Among them was his 2006 conviction on an aggravated manslaughter charge in the death of Richard King, an acquaintance of Johnstone's.
Johnstone was a prosecution witness in Santiago’s trial on charges of fatally stabbing King, a 44-year-old Mantua resident, at Woodbury Court Apartments on Sept. 12, 2004. At the time, Santiago lived in the same apartment complex.
Santiago was sentenced to nine years in state prison in that case. He was released May 6, 2012.
An acquaintance found Johnstone unconscious in her apartment, stabbed multiple times, on the night of Dec. 17, 2012, Cimino said.
Arguing against any bail reduction Monday, Cimino said video from a surveillance camera at Woodbury Court Apartments show a person believed to be Santiago entering the victim's apartment carrying a red bag on the date of the slaying. Other surveillance cameras on Broad Street in Woodbury show what appears to be the same male walking along the street, prosecutors said.
Santiago’s daughter-in-law, who lives in Woodbury, told investigators he showed up unexpectedly on Dec. 17, saying he had to catch an 8 p.m. bus, according to Cimino.
A Camden store surveillance video the next day shows Santiago carrying the red bag, Cimino said. Detectives learned he’d slept at a Camden residence where the bedding he used was seized and is being tested for DNA, she said.
Investigators also interviewed a brother-in-law of Santiago, who said he encountered the defendant in Camden carrying a bag of clothing he said had to be thrown away, according to Cimino. The two are seen on a Camden service station surveillance video where Santiago threw the clothing in a Dumpster, the assistant prosecutor said.
Trash collectors emptied the dumpster shortly afterward and the clothing was not recovered, Cimino said. However, the red bag Santiago was carrying has been recovered and is also being tested for DNA, she said.