Two very different versions of convicted murderer Thor Frey were presented in Warren County Superior Court Thursday afternoon, as defense and prosecution attorneys put together the facts for the jury retrying him.
Judge Ann R. Bartlett will charge the jury Friday morning, and then Frey's fate will be in the jury's hands.
Defense attorney Michael Priarone spent 72 minutes attacking evidence suggesting Frey took part in the beating and suffocation death of 75- year-old Mary Bostian of Phillipsburg in 2006, as he and Donald O'Grady Jr. stole a safe that Bostian's son had filled with $25,000 in cash and coins.
Frey maintains that he was so drunk when O'Grady took him to Bostian's house that he passed out on the grass and never entered the home.
Priarone took aim at a medallion with a Thor's hammer design that was found by investigators on Bostian's living room floor.
Priarone said the medallion was not the one Frey was seen wearing in a photo a few weeks before the murder, and said the way police found the medallion was "unusual." An investigator from the New Jersey Crime Lab discovered it at about 1:15 p.m., about four hours after a Phillipsburg detective first looked over the crime scene on Aug. 18, 2006.
Priarone asked why, if the medallion fell from Frey's neck, was no chain found on the floor, and why there was "not a speck" of DNA or fiber implicating Frey on it.
Priarone pointed out that throughout a taped statement Frey gave to police after he was arrested on Aug. 24, 2006, he maintained that nothing of his would be found in Bostian's house.
Priarone said the safe was also a "significant" piece of evidence, and tried to show that contrary to some testimony, it was not impossible for one man to move it. Priarone pushed the 140-pound safe about 30 feet across the courtroom floor to the jury box, and red-faced and huffing and puffing, he told jurors, "If a 60-year-old, out-of-shape man can do it, Donald O'Grady, the construction worker, the field hand, can do it."
Priarone said Frey hid out at the Travel Inn Hotel near Wind Gap, Northampton Co., rather than go to police when he realized a murder had been committed "because he's not the smartest guy in the world [and] he had many conflicting thoughts in his mind. So he decides to wait until the investigation is complete."
He said Frey received stolen property and helped O'Grady take the safe away, but he did not commit robbery, "which [legally] means he's got to share the same state of mind as O'Grady." (If Frey is found not guilty of robbery, he can avoid the felony murder charge he was convicted of in 2009.)
Prosecuting attorney Kelly Shelton took 77 minutes to sum up her case against Frey. She began by writing on a large tablet on an easel, dividing into groups the 25 witnesses she and Priarone called to testify since last Thursday. Then she attempted to demonstrate Bostian's death and the safe robbery was a two-man crime.
With a heavy dose of sarcasm, she wondered where Frey got the $800 he gave to his girlfriend, Robin O'Grady, when he returned to their home on Aug. 18, 2006. "There were lots of empty money envelopes in Mary Bostian's room. That's where he Thor Frey got the $800," she said.
She then began to pick apart Frey's taped statement, mockingly reminding the jury that Priarone told them, "Everything he [Frey] said in that statement was true."
Shelton said it was hard to believe O'Grady would take "a drunk who wouldn't be able to help him" commit a robbery, especially since "he could push that safe around all by himself."
She noted Frey claimed he was "barfing in the back yard," but no vomit was found at the crime scene. "The evidence in the real world doesn't support the reality Thor Frey lives in," Shelton said.
As for no DNA or fingerprints in Bostian's home, Shelton asked incredulously, "Did Mary Bostian kill herself?"
Regarding the finding of the medallion with the Thor's hammer design hours after the murder investigation began, she said, "She [Bostian] had a shag carpet! ... I'd describe it as a '70s house. The medallion was there all along. ... If it fell off [Frey's neck], it was because he was in the living room trying to get the safe open."
As for no chain being found, Shelton said, "So what?," noting that chains often are caught in clothing when they break.
Shelton said Frey and O'Grady, who she described as "two peas in a pod," expected to get the combination of the safe from Bostian, not realizing only her son had it. "That led to her death," Shelton said. "Force was used on Mary Bostian because they needed information."
Shelton said when Frey went to live at the Travel Inn Hotel, "he gets a tattoo on his arm with a dead woman's money. ... He showed no concern for Mary Bostian. Mary Bostian is the victim in this case, not Thor Frey."
"Only two people had proceeds from that safe -- Frey and O'Grady," Shelton added.
Thursday's proceedings were interrupted twice by courthouse fire alarms. The first alarm went off at 9:50 a.m., and court employees and trial participants waited outside for about 45 minutes while emergency officials checked the courthouse, but found nothing amiss. There was no explanation from court officials about why the alarm went off.
The second alarm sounded at 1:50 p.m., and the courthouse was cleared again. Employees and visitors stood outside for about 10 minutes before they were allowed back inside.
Bartlett, Shelton and Priarone were working on the wording of the final charges against Frey when the alarms sounded, and the delays added about an hour to the time it took to finish their work.