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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Jerry Sandusky case may have led Sussex man to kill ex-Scout leader

6-27-2012 New Jersey:

The prosecuting attorney is investigating whether the man accused of killing an elderly, well-known member of a small Sussex County community was spurred to the act, at least in part, by the sex abuse trial of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

"I’m mindful that the Sandusky trial started one day before this murder," Sussex County First Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Mueller said. "Whether this was a triggering event is part of the investigation."

Clark Fredericks, 46, of Fredon, was arrested just hours after State Police found the bloodied body of former Sussex County corrections officer Dennis Pegg, 68, in the living room of his Stillwater home on June 13. Pegg was stabbed 20 times and his throat was slit.

A friend of Fredericks, Robert A. Reynolds, 47, of Hackettstown, was also arrested.

Pegg, according to officials from the Boy Scout’s Patriots Path Council, was a former troop leader and Fredericks, according to his mother, Joan, and sister-in-law Carol, was once a Scout in Pegg’s troop.

Both women contend Fredericks was molested by the older man decades ago.

In the tiny town of Stillwater, where signs saying "In God we Trust" sprout from lush green lawns and tangles of orange daylilies grow wild by the side of the road, people are still talking about the murder of one of their own.

Many people say Dennis Pegg was devoted to children and a pillar of the community, a man who taught a survival course for park rangers in the 1990s, hand-fed deer in his front yard and was known as a "trail angel" for helping hikers along New Jersey’s branch of the Appalachian Trail.

No sex abuse charges were ever brought against Pegg. In 1998, according to the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office, criminal accusations were made claiming he’d made terroristic threats and engaged in coercion, or the restraining of someone’s movement, but those accusations were dropped two months later.

Mueller said the complaints did not appear to be sexual in nature nor did they seem to support the molestation accusations.

Tuesday, Carol Fredericks declined to speak further on the matter, saying her brother-in-law had retained a defense lawyer, Dan Perez, a civil rights attorney who once represented one of the victims in the famous Bernard Goetz, "Subway Shooter" case in New York City.

"The investigation into the death of Dennis Pegg is active and ongoing," Perez said. "My understanding is that the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office and the New Jersey State Police are pursuing a number of leads. When the investigation has been concluded, the case will proceed to court."

Mueller, the assistant prosecutor, said he was "aware that allegations against the victim have been made," and added, "You want to separate what is real and what is rumor. We want to know the accuracy of the allegations before we comment on them."

Fredericks and Reynolds are being held in the Sussex County jail with a bail of $350,000 each. Fredericks was charged with first-degree murder and Reynolds with being an accomplice to murder, conspiracy to commit murder and tampering with evidence. He is being represented by David Nufrio, a public defender.

Pegg, like Fredericks, was a longtime resident of Sussex County. He was a Vietnam veteran, according to his sister, Nancy Pegg, 74, of Carbondale, Pa., and was unmarried. An avid fisherman and hunter, he was also a firearms expert, say those who knew him, and retired from his job in county corrections 15 years ago.

Nancy Pegg said she was taken by surprise by the accusations against her brother, and John M. Broda, a nephew of Pegg’s, said by email: "At this time, I do not care to comment since there is an ongoing investigation. The motive is irrelevant; no one has the right to violently murder another member of our family, this community, and our society."

In the 1962 edition of Aurora, the Newton High School yearbook, Dennis Pegg is a handsome, strong-chinned teenager with light brown hair. The yearbook says he was a member of the Rifle Club, his homeroom representative and a singer with the concert choir. He was also "noted" for his "loyalty to friends," and his secret ambition was "To be a state policeman." ..Source.. by Seth Augenstein and Amy Ellis Nutt/The Star-Ledger


Suspect's family says years of anger led to attack on retired Sussex County corrections officer

Four days after Dennis Pegg was killed, splatters of dried blood still clung to the cement step in front of his small white cottage in Stillwater — the only evidence that something horrible had happened in this quiet Sussex County community.

Sometime on Tuesday, Pegg, 68, a retired county corrections officer and former Boy Scout leader, was stabbed more than 20 times and his throat was slit, authorities said. Within hours, Clark T. Fredericks, 46, of Fredon and Robert A. Reynolds, 47, of Hackettstown were arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

Fredericks, according to his mother and sister-in-law, was a member of Pegg’s Scout troop decades ago.

"While it doesn’t appear the defendants were invited guests, it doesn’t appear they broke down the door," said Sussex County First Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Mueller. "Robbery does not appear to be the motive."

Fredericks’ relatives believe the motive was anger and revenge. Joan Fredericks, 82, said her son was molested by Pegg when he was a Boy Scout, but it took decades for him to open up to her about it.

"Young boys don’t like to confess these things to their mothers," Joan Fredericks said. "They hold it in, hold it in, hold it in."

The executive director of the Boy Scouts’ Patriots Path Council, Dennis Kohl, confirmed that Pegg, whom he did not know, was a Boy Scout leader in the 1970s.

Pegg, unmarried and living alone, was well known in Stillwater, a 28-square-mile township in northwestern New Jersey with a population of 4,300. He was president of the Sussex County Historical Society and a founding member of the Sussex County Bird Club.

On Thursday, a message was posted online from the Historical Society of Stillwater Township: "Due to the passing of Dennis Pegg, beloved officer and long-term member of HSST, the events scheduled for this week — the Deserted Villages program and the Strawberry Festival — have been cancelled.

Though Dennis would have loved for us to persevere for the sake of the organization, it would be very difficult for our members to carry out hosting the events given the sudden loss of such a dear friend and colleague."

"He was the most careful, deliberate person you’d want to know. Absolute integrity," said Ed Szabo, secretary of the Stillwater Township Taxpayers Association.

Pegg’s sister, Nancy, who lives in Carbondale, Pa., said Saturday she was horrified by the molestation accusations.

"If it’s true, it would be a shock to the family," she said. "I know he was devoted to children, but I never heard anything like that."

Nancy Pegg, who is 74, said Dennis was the fourth of five children in the family growing up in Newton. Their mother left and moved to Florida when Dennis was 5, she said.

"He was my baby brother — I helped raise him," she said.

Nancy Pegg said she chatted online with her brother after midnight the day he was killed. He mentioned he was looking forward to a trip to Europe in October. Because of problems with his knees and pending surgeries, it would be his "last hurrah," he told her.

Kurt Eliasson, a neighbor of Pegg’s, was also in the Boy Scout troop, though not at the same time as Fredericks.

"He was pretty quiet; he kept to himself," Eliasson said of Pegg, adding he’d never heard about abuse allegations.

Wayne McCabe, the Sussex County historian, also was surprised.

"I find it hard to believe with Dennis," he said.

But Fredericks’ sister-in-law, Carol Fredericks, did not.

"It’s rage, the way this was done," she said. "There’s a lot more to this story that people don’t even know."

When assistant prosecutor Mueller was asked about the claims made by Joan and Carol Fredericks, he responded, "The motive is under investigation. That’s all I can say at this time. We’re spending a lot of time trying to find out why this occurred."

On Tuesday evening, when Fredericks returned to his parents’ home, where he was living, covered in blood, a family member contacted a counselor who then called the New Jersey State Police.

Troopers found Pegg’s body about noon Wednesday on the floor of his living room a short distance from the front door. A short time later, Fredericks and Reynolds were arrested and two knives were confiscated from Fredericks’ garage.

When he made his first court appearance Thursday, Fredericks’ hand was in a cast and his arm in a sling.

"He stabbed himself in the process of killing Mr. Pegg," Mueller said of the severe laceration on Fredericks’ left hand.

Fredericks met Robert Reynolds about eight years ago, according to Mark Pillion, who has been a friend of Reynolds’ since they were 6 years old. Pillion said Reynolds and Fredericks became acquainted through their mutual interest in Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

"There was nothing in Bob’s past to make him want to kill that person," Pillion said. "I can’t believe Bob would be involved in this."

Pillion said Reynolds has been living with him and his family for the past two years. Reynolds had been unemployed for several months and had a falling out with his family, according to Pillion.

Pillion said it was his van that Reynolds and Fredericks borrowed to drive to Pegg’s house on Tuesday.

"I guarantee he didn’t know what was going to happen," said Pillion. "He would have walked away."

As of Saturday evening, Fredericks and Reynolds were being held in the county jail in lieu of $350,000 bail each.

"We will find out what led to this," said Mueller. "I expect the suspects’ motive will be a large part of the trial."

Almost none of the townspeople were willing to speculate on that motive Saturday. Under blue skies they gathered at Veterans Field to celebrate the annual Stillwater Day with colorful tents, inflatable rides, a dunk tank and a talent show. In the afternoon, children ran back and forth chasing Frisbees and playing in the hot June sun. When several adults were asked about the slaying of one of their own just days earlier and two miles up the road, their faces clouded over.

"This town is like ‘Cheers’ — everyone knows everyone," said Anita Straway, a township committeewoman. "These are our friends and neighbors — it’s a tragedy for everyone."

"Everybody’s sad," said Bob Fritsch, an organizer of the town day. "We’ll find out what happened sooner or later." ..Source.. by Seth Augenstein and Amy Ellis Nutt/The Star-Ledger


No child pornography found in home of Stillwater stabbing victim, investigators say

A box containing pictures of young boys was found by investigators in the home of Dennis Pegg, but they weren’t the nude child photos being sought by the attorney representing one of Pegg’s accused killers, a Sussex County prosecutor said Tuesday.

Last week a man came forward to authorities alleging he’d been abused by Pegg decades ago and that the murdered man had owned a box of salacious photographs.

"What the witness described was definitely pornographic," First Assistant Sussex County Prosecutor Gregory Mueller said during a hearing Tuesday before Superior Court Judge N. Peter Conforti in Newton. The judge had ordered Pegg’s assets frozen and an inventory made before they were distributed to his heirs.

As to the box found in the house where Pegg was stabbed to death on June 12, Mueller said, "We have young boys in photographs, but they’re definitely not pornographic."

Daniel Perez, who represents accused killer Clark Fredericks, 46, of Fredon, said, "Look, the one thing we’re all looking for is a box of child porn. It existed at some point. It raises the question of where it is and who has it."

Two members of Fredericks’ family have claimed Fredericks was also molested by Pegg decades ago when he was a Boy Scout and Pegg a troop leader. The killing was a result of years of rage over the assault, they said.

Mueller had not yet seen the pictures unearthed by investigators, but said, "There was nothing remarkable about the photos. It wasn’t nudity."

However, Perez said, "evidence that may not be relevant today may become relevant somewhere down the road."

Pegg, 68, didn’t leave much to his heirs, said attorney William Haggerty, who spoke during Tuesday’s half-hour hearing. Clothing, furniture and a few personal effects, including a family Bible, have already been given to Joshua Orinowski, a co-executor of the estate, said Haggerty, who prepared Pegg’s will.

Pegg was killed inside a modest rental house on Millbrook Road the night of June 12. Unmarried and living alone, he had paid the rent until July 15, said Haggerty, who expects to hand over the keys of the now-empty rental to the landlord Thursday.

Fredericks has been charged with first-degree murder for allegedly slitting Pegg’s throat and stabbing him more than 20 times. He was arrested a day later, telling authorities Pegg "got what was coming to him" and had been a "child molester for years," according to the arrest affidavit.

Robert Reynolds, 47, of Hackettstown, a friend of Fredericks, has been charged with helping him kill Peg and hiding evidence.

Fredericks and Reynolds, both shackled and wearing orange jail jumpsuits, attended Tuesday’s hearing flanked by four sheriff’s officers.

Fredericks, his left hand still heavily bandaged from injuries he allegedly suffered while attacking Pegg, and his co-defendant did not speak during the 30-minute court session.

Superior Court Judge Edward Gannon is expected to decide Thursday on the disposition of 14 letters left by Pegg that were found in a safe deposit box he rented at a bank in Stillwater.

Fredericks and Reynolds are being held in the Sussex County Jail on $350,000 bail each with no 10 percent option.

Lee Liddy, an investigator with the sheriff’s office, said Fredericks is being held in a "medical watch" cell separate from the general jail population due to his hand injury. Reynolds is being held with the general population, he said.

Liddy said he did not know if the other inmates were supportive of the two murder suspects.

"We only get reports of ‘hot activity’ if they’re having a problem," he said. "They’re not having problems with the other inmates." ..Source.. by Joe Moszczynski/The Star-Ledger

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