TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey man who admitted to strangling his parents and burying them in a park before going on a shopping spree with his girlfriend had his murder conviction overturned Monday after the state Supreme Court ruled that his confession was obtained improperly.
The court said Monday that Michael Maltese's statement that he killed his parents in 2008 was inadmissible because it was obtained after police violated his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent after secretly recording a conversation with his uncle.
The Supreme Court ruled that a trial court will have to determine whether the evidence is admissible.
The 26-year-old was convicted of passion provocation manslaughter in the death of his father, Michael J. Maltese, and murder in the killing of his mother, Kathleen Maltese. He was sentenced to 64 years in state prison.
Maltese's girlfriend, Nicole Taylor, pleaded guilty in August 2009 to being an accomplice and is serving a 10-year sentence after testifying against him.
Maltese testified that he killed his father after he started an argument in the mobile home where they lived, following a long history of verbal and physical abuse. He testified that Taylor killed his mother.
Maltese first told police that he had last seen his parents in early October 2008, when he dropped them off in Pennsylvania. He returned to the police station to take a polygraph test the following week and denied he knew where his parents were. After a South Brunswick police officer scored the test and insisted that Maltese knew where his parents were, he asked to talk with his uncle.
Sgt. Paul Vallas told Maltese that the cameras would be turned off, the Supreme Court found, but did not turn off the camera when Maltese told his uncle he knew where the bodies were.
Maltese was then read a Miranda warning again and admitted to killing his parents and then disposing the bodies along with Taylor.
The high court ruled that that confession "was fruit of the unconstitutionally obtained statement to his uncle and must also be suppressed." An appellate court had previously ruled that the confession was admissible because he had been read his rights again.
The high court did not overturn his convictions on charges of hindering prosecution, fraudulent use of a credit card, tampering with evidence, false swearing, and disturbing, moving or concealing human remains.
After disposing of their bodies, Maltese and Taylor went on a shopping spree with his parents' bank card that included purchasing an engagement ring.