Accused of killing wife, Jeremiah Monell pleads not guilty
BRIDGETON - Attorneys for murder defendant Jeremiah E. Monell entered a not guilty plea at his post-indictment arraignment hearing Friday morning in Cumberland County Superior Court.
Monell appeared in a Cumberland County Jail uniform and did not speak. He is being held in jail until his trial on first-degree murder, weapon, and contempt of court charges.
Judge Cristen D’Arrigo set June 9 for the next hearing date, at which point both sides may submit motions. A trial date is not set.
Read the case background:
The Prosecutor’s Office is seeking to have Monell, if convicted at trial, sentenced to the maximum possible punishment under New Jersey law — life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The prosecution has offered a plea bargain in return for a guilty plea to the murder charge that would avoid a trial. The offer is for the prosecution not to ask for a specific punishment, leaving it to the judge’s discretion.
State law in first-degree murder cases requires a minimum prison term of 30 years without parole. With the offer, Monell could get a sentence that would some day allow him to leave prison.
According to testimony, Monell stabbed to death his estranged wife, 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.
O’Shea-Watson was seeking a divorce and they were living apart.
New Jersey State Police caught Monell on Jan. 2 in a wooded area in Folsom, Atlantic County.
The defense is waiting to review all evidence before responding to the offer. As of Friday, Public Defender Lindsey Seidel told the court she still was waiting for reports on DNA findings, fingerprints and a final autopsy report.
County Assistant Prosecutor Brent Hopkins said the DNA reports are available and indicated, if not sent already to Seidel, they shortly would be. Fingerprint evidence also is available and should be delivered to the defense in a week, he said.
Hopkins said the final autopsy report has not been delivered to his office.
Seidel has represented Monell since his first appearance in court in January, but she was joined for the arraignment hearing by Public Defender Nathan Perry.
Joseph P. Smith; (856) 563-5252; firstname.lastname@example.org