New Jersey hostage standoff ends with suspect’s death

A SWAT police officer stands guard near the suspect's house.
A SWAT police officer stands guard near the suspect’s house.

A tense weekend standoff in a South Trenton, N. J., neighborhood ended early Sunday with a hostage-taker dead and three children rescued, authorities said.

Police shot Gerald Tyrone Murphy, ending the 37-hour standoff and saving the lives of three unidentified children he had held hostage, New Jersey State Police Colonel Rick Fuentes said at a news conference Sunday morning.

Murphy, 38, a convicted sex offender, died of a gunshot wound shortly after the situation ended, Fuentes said.

The partially decomposed bodies of Carmelita Stevens, 44, believed to be Murphy’s girlfriend, and her 13-year-old son were discovered in the two-story home, authorities said.

Murphy had barricaded himself inside the house in the New Jersey state capital Friday afternoon after police were called to do a wellness check on a resident at the address, a Trenton police spokesman said Friday.

On Saturday, the Times of Trenton cited two unidentified law enforcement sources as saying police checking on the house had discovered the partially decomposed body of a woman, but pulled back when they saw he had a gun.

Authorities at Sunday’s press conference said that during hostage negotiations, Murphy told them that he had a handgun and explosives. Officials declined to say whether any explosives had yet been recovered from the home.

The newspaper also identified Stevens as the mother of the three children, ages 18, 16 and 4, Murphy took as hostages. A fifth child of Stevens, age 19, was reportedly safe at another location with relatives. Police said Murphy was not the father of any of the children.

Fuentes said hostage negotiators had maintained contact with Murphy throughout the ordeal, passing food and water through an upper window. Residents on the surrounding block were evacuated during the ordeal as a precaution.

Around 3:45 a.m. Sunday, a SWAT team stormed the home, moved to the second floor and confronted Murphy, firing a single shot to prevent further harm to the children, Fuentes said.

Murphy had an extensive criminal record, including previous arrests for robbery, a weapons offense and child endangerment, according to Mercer County prosecutor Joseph Boccini Jr. An arrest warrant had been issued in Pennsylvania for Murphy after he failed to register there as a convicted sex offender.


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