Voices from the past -- expected and unexpected -- were heard at the retrial of a man convicted in the murder of a Warren County woman seven years ago.
Tuesday afternoon, jurors listened to a 43-minute tape recording of Thor Frey, after he was taken into custody on Aug. 24, 2006, outside the Motor Inn Hotel in Plainfield Township, Northampton Co., less than a week after the suffocation death of 75-year-old Mary Bostian.
Jurors also heard from two people who had close contact with Frey in the days after Bostian's death, when prosecutor Kelly Shelton unexpectedly called to the stand a tattoo artist who showed police where Frey and his accomplice left a safe stolen from Bostian's home and Frey's ex-girlfriend.
Frey gave his taped statement to a now-retired investigator from the Warren County Prosecutor's Office, Stephen B. Speirs, who was on the witness stand while the recording was played.
On the tape, Frey tells Speirs he had been drinking and smoking pot on his birthday, Aug. 17, and that he was passed out on the grass outside Bostian's home while his friend, Donald O'Grady Jr., broke into the house in the early morning hours of Aug. 18 and stole a safe owned by Bostian's son with $25,000 in cash and coins in it.
Although Frey admits to helping load the safe into O'Grady's car and driving it to a wooded area, Frey tells Speirs, "I didn't see nothin' and I didn't know nothin'." The next day, Frey says, "I heard this lady was dead."
Frey says on the tape that he hid out at the Motor Inn Hotel because he believed he was being set up to take the fall for the crime -- "I'm always the easy mark," Frey says at one point -- adding that O'Grady gave him a couple of thousand dollars "because I made the comment, 'I'll tell on you if I get caught.' "
The jurors also heard from two unscheduled prosecution witnesses -- Daniel Stracquadine and Robin O'Grady, Donald O'Grady's ex-wife -- after Judge Ann R. Bartlett ruled both could testify.
Stracquadine, who now lives in Washington, N.J., testified that he met Frey and O'Grady while he was staying at the Motor Inn Hotel and drove them to the location where they had hidden the safe.
Stracquadine said he said got to know Frey and O'Grady after striking up a conversation about tattoos with them. He said he was paid a total of $600 by the men after giving Frey a pirate/Viking tattoo and O'Grady a dragon tattoo.
After police stopped him in the Motor Inn parking lot with O'Grady in his Camaro, Stracquadine said he showed them the location of the safe.
Under cross-examination from defense attorney Michael Priarone, Stracquadine admitted he had drugs in his car, but was never charged by police.
At a hearing without the jurors present, Stracquadine also admitted that he is facing charges of second-degree robbery and domestic abuse in Brooklyn, and that testifying at Frey's retrial "might be something to help" his case.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the testimony of Frey's ex- girlfriend, Robin O'Grady.
O'Grady testified -- often tearfully -- for almost an hour Tuesday morning about what Frey told her concerning the robbery and Bostian's death.
O'Grady testified that when Frey returned to their home on Market Street in Bangor, Northampton Co., in the early morning hours of Aug. 18, 2006 -- the day of Bostian's murder -- he gave her about $800 in cash and told her he had robbed for it.
She said she told Frey she did not want to know anything about the crime, to avoid becoming involved. But as Frey watched a newscast about Bostian's death later in the day, O'Grady said Frey told her he had robbed Bostian's home, but "did not hurt the lady."
O'Grady said she turned over the $800 to police on Aug. 25, and allowed her home to be searched.
Under cross-examination by Priarone, O'Grady admitted she has served three years in state prison on drugs charges, and became emotional answering no after Priarone asked if her son, Donald O'Grady III, was "in some kind of trouble now."
O'Grady also denied Priarone's suggestion that she turned over the
$800 to investigators on Aug. 25 only because police were reading her her Miranda rights. "How was I culpable?" she asked.
O'Grady admitted, however, that she began to drink after Frey returned home on Aug. 18, and that her Aug. 25 statement to police was, in Priarone's words, "a montage of rumors on the street and other statements," as well as what she was told by Frey.
After Priarone finished, Shelton asked O'Grady why she was so upset.
"Because I loved him [Frey]," she replied, fighting back the tears. "We were supposed to be together, and then all of this happened."
Because Shelton delayed announcing O'Grady's appearance Tuesday morning until just after court convened, the jury had to wait for almost two hours in a small room until a hearing was held to determine what O'Grady could say.
After the 15-minute hearing with O'Grady in the witness box, Judge Bartlett decided the jury could hear her testimony. The judge also gave Priarone some time to confer in private with Frey.