After a tense, 37-hour standoff involving three children, police shot and killed 38-year-old Trenton, N.J. barricade suspect Gerald Tyrone Murphy early Sunday morning, officials announced at a news conference.
"For days, the lives of three children were placed at great risk by the presence of one individual who was their captor, Gerald Tyrone Murphy, age 38," New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes said.
"Today, those children have been rescued from a deadly threat and horrible circumstances at the hands of an armed subject."
Murphy, who is a registered tier-three sex offender in Pennsylvania, is accused of killing girlfriend Carmelita Stevens, 44, and her 13-year-old son about two weeks ago inside a two-story rental at 250 Grand Street.
"Our preliminary investigation has revealed that the murder of Miss Stevens took place approximately two weeks ago, in addition to the murder of the 13-year-old boy," Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini said.
Amid the decomposing bodies, Murphy allegedly held hostage three more of Stevens' children – a 4-year-old boy and two girls, aged 16 and 18 – during a nearly three-day standoff with police that began around 3 p.m. Friday.
"During this whole incident, the welfare of the children who were being held hostage was of paramount concern," Fuentes said.
"We passed food and bottled water through an upper window, watching and waiting for the best opportunity to end the standoff safely. That opportunity came 37 hours after the first police response, about 3:45 a.m. this morning."
He said TEAMS – a New Jersey State Police tactical response unit – stormed the home with flash-bang grenades after it became evident Murphy was suffering from "a deteriorating state of mind" and likely to take further violent action.
"Preliminary information from the investigation now being conducted indicates that following our entry, a single shot was fired by our entry team to stop a threatening action against one of the children by Murphy," Fuentes said.
Murphy died from his injures at an area hospital.
The three surviving children were rescued and were on Sunday being evaluated at a local hospital.
"There are also allegations that the 18 and 16-year-old girls were abused and assaulted during the time they were held hostage," Bocchini said.
The children, who were not fathered by Murphy, will be evaluated by state child protective services and placed with a family member.
Trenton Police Department officers responding to the initial call on Friday rescued Stevens' oldest son, 19, who was found hiding inside the basement.
The teen told police he had not seen his mother or sisters since April 24.
"I would say we have every reason to believe that the kids were in the room and that they were possibly restrained during that period of time," Bocchini said.
"Police further received additional information from another family member that Stevens' two daughters had not been to school in 12 days," Trenton Police Director Ralph Rivera, Jr. said.
"When officers did not receive a response at the door and, fearing for the safety of the family, they made a forced entry into the home through a rear door and immediately smelled an odor consistent with a decomposing body. The officers also noticed maggots throughout the residence."
He said police heard a man's voice coming from behind the closed door of a second-floor front bedroom.
The man, later identified as Murphy, allegedly told police there was a dead person with him in the room, as well as a second body in a rear bedroom.
Officers forced their way into the rear bedroom, where investigators said they found a corpse "in an advanced stage of decomposition," confirming Murphy's claim.
Murphy then told police he had barricaded three children with him inside the 10-foot-by-11-foot front bedroom.
He also allegedly said he was armed with a handgun and explosives.
Police secured the residence and retreated after recovering Stevens' oldest son.
"Our hostage negotiators maintained contact with Murphy throughout the event and our TEAMS members took up tactical positions from which they could move in quickly when needed," Fuentes said.
"He has convictions for aggravated assault and criminal conspiracy," Bocchini said.
"He has also been arrested for robbery and weapons offenses, as well as child endangerment."
Murphy served his longest jail term in Philadelphia after pleading guilty in 2001 to sexual assault, for which he was sentenced to four to ten years' confinement.
"Murphy, also known as 'Skip,' was found to have an arrest warrant out of Pennsylvania for failing to register as a sex offender," Bocchini said.
Online sex offender registry records list Murphy's address as of January 2011 as the Ridge Avenue Men's Shelter in Philadelphia.
Authorities continue to investigate the protracted, complex crime, which now encompasses a police-involved shooting, as well as two homicides and a barricade situation.