TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The woman whose decomposing body was pulled from a New Jersey home following a tense, 37-hour standoff died from stab wounds and blunt force trauma, authorities said Monday.
Police identified the woman as Carmelita Stevens on Sunday — the same day officers stormed her South Trenton home to rescue three of her children from a registered sex-offender who had held authorities at bay since Friday.
The standoff ended when officers entered the home and shot 38-year-old Gerald Tyrone Murphy — the man police said she'd been dating — in the head after they said he threatened one of the children.
Although the Mercer County prosecutor's office did not confirm the woman's identity Monday, it said her death had been ruled a homicide from stab wounds to the chest and blunt force trauma to the head.
Police said Murphy killed Stevens and her 13-year-old son as much as two weeks before the standoff began. Three of Stevens' children — an 18-year-old woman, a 16-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy — had been held hostage and abused during their ordeal, according to prosecutors.
It hasn't yet been determined exactly when the woman was killed. An autopsy for the teenage boy is set for Tuesday.
Officers initially went to the home in Friday afternoon after a relative of Stevens said she hadn't spoken to her in weeks and was worried about her. Authorities said they also learned her children hadn't been to school in 12 days.
Police entered the home through a rear door and smelled an odor consistent with that of a decomposing body, Trenton Police Director Ralph Rivera Jr. said. But officers were forced to pull back after they said Murphy told them he was armed and had hostages.
Authorities found the bodies of Stevens and her son in separate bedrooms. Stevens' other children had been held captive in another part of the house while another sibling, a 19-year-old man, was freed from the home when police visited Friday.
Murphy had a long criminal history including convictions for aggravated and sexual assault in Pennsylvania, according to his criminal record.
Murphy was jailed on an aggravated assault charged in November 1995 and released on February 2000. He went back to prison for sexual assault from May 2001 to January 2011, according to Pennsylvania Department of Corrections spokeswoman Susan McNaughton.
McNaughton said that under Pennsylvania law, Murphy was not under any probation because he had served the maximum sentence in both cases. Murphy did, however, have an arrest warrant pending from the Philadelphia Police Department for failing to register as a sex offender.