Accused murderer Monell rejects plea offer
Accused murderer Jeremiah Monell on Thursday rejected a prosecution plea deal. The deal would have let a judge decide his punishment for the murder of his wife. The case now goes to a grand jury. Joseph P. Smith/Staff Writer
BRIDGETON – Murder defendant Jeremiah E. Monell on Thursday rejected an offer to let a judge decide his punishment if he would plead guilty immediately to a first-degree murder charge in the death of his estranged wife.
The offer meant the prosecution would not ask for a specific punishment. However, New Jersey’s sentencing law specifies at least 30 years imprisonment without the possibility of parole in first-degree murder cases. The maximum sentence is 30 years without parole to life imprisonment.
The offer was disclosed at a brief pre-indictment hearing before Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Robert Malestein. The judge explained to Monell the sentencing implications of the offer were he to accept.
Public Defender Lindsey Seidel, who represents Monell, told the court the defense has not received all the discovery evidence it wanted to evaluate the plea offer. “Without all the discovery, we’re not in a position to do anything,” she said.
New Jersey State Police caught Monell on Jan. 2 in a wooded area of Folsom in Atlantic County. After a short stay in a hospital, the fugitive was placed in Cumberland County Jail.
According to authorities, Monell stabbed to death Tara O’Shea-Watson on Dec. 19, 2016 in their home in the Laurel Lake section of Commercial Township. The crime allegedly was committed in the presence of their 12-year-old son. She was seeking a divorce and they were not living together.
The next step in the case is for the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office to seek an indictment from a county grand jury. Besides first-degree murder, Monell faces weapon and contempt of court charges.
Malestein said the prosecution has a period of 90 calendar days, beginning from Jan. 3, to indict Monell.
County Assistant Prosecutors Brent Hopkins and Charles Wettstein represented the state at the hearing.
Joseph P. Smith; (856) 563-5252; email@example.com