Testimony from ex-wife, victim's neighbor end first day of convicted murderer's retrial
The second day of the retrial of a man convicted in the 2006 murder of a Warren County woman ended with testimony from both his ex-wife and a neighbor who was one of the last people to see the victim alive.
Most of the testimony from Thor Frey's ex-wife Naomi on Thursday afternoon centered on her purchase of two medallions engraved with Thor's hammer from a mail order catalog. A Thor's hammer medallion was found by investigators in the living room of 75-year-old Mary Bastion of Phillipsburg on the day she was murdered: Aug. 18, 2006.
Naomi Frey said her boyfriend, John Counterman, the son of the murdered woman, recognized the design immediately when a detective showed him a sketch of the medallion found in his mother's home on the day she was killed.
Frey said she had kept one of the medallions, which was on the rear view mirror of her car, and had given one to Thor Frey's sister, "because she wanted to give it to her brother."
Before Frey's testimony, the jury heard from Robert W. Rose, who lived next door to Bostian on Thomas Street and knew her for 40 years. He said that on Aug. 17, 2006, he and Bostian spoke while they were sitting on their porches. At about 7 p.m. Rose said he went inside his home to watch a football game, and went to bed around 11 p.m.
He said he heard noises around 3 a.m and looked outside his window, which faced Bostian's home. But Rose said he didn't see anything. He said he learned of Bostian's death when he went out on his front porch in the morning and saw police and neighbors gathered next door.
Earlier on Thursday, two police investigators returned the jury to the scene of the crime.
Prosecutor Kelly Shelton's first witness against Thor Frey was crime scene investigator Stephen J. Matuszek. His testimony included a 30- minute DVD he made of the inside and outside of Bastion's home on Aug. 18, 2006.
The DVD showed a broken basement window, a screw driver and hammer on the living room floor, a cord that had been ripped from a telephone and wrapped around an oven door handle, a purse that had been rifled through, emptied jewelry boxes that had been tossed aside, a bedroom that was turned upside down, pieces of wood that had held a safe inside a closet, and a hole in a closet wall where the safe had been pulled out.
The DVD also showed a medallion that Matuszek later identified as having a Thor's hammer design.
But the most graphic part of the DVD showed Bastion's partially exposed body bound hand and foot with cord lying lifeless alongside her bed.
Matuszek identified several still photos from the crime scene, which were then given to jurors to inspect.
During cross-examination by defense attorney Michael Priarone, Matuszek said he did not know how long the crime scene had been cordoned off before he arrived, or who had been there before him.
Matuszek also admitted he was never able to identify a white powder at the scene which he initially thought was broken sheet rock.
Priarone suggested it might have been insulation from the door of a safe.
A second prosecution witness, Thomas A. Carroll, a detective in the Warren County prosecutor's office, said he came across the medallion while searching the home on the day of the murder and made a sketch of it.
After putting on surgical gloves, Carroll took the medallion from an evidence envelope. He then held the medallion in his right hand and his sketch, which was in a plastic envelope, in his left hand and walked in front of the jury box so both could be inspected.
Throughout the day, Frey sat impassively next to his attorney. For both the morning and afternoon testimony, he was brought into the courtroom handcuffed and shackled. He wore a charcoal gray suit and a black and rust-patterned tie. He was clean shaven, with his black hair cut short.
On his way to his seat in the morning, he winked at his mother, Carol Ehrie, and two of her cousins and mouthed the words "I love you."
As the trial broke for lunch, he smiled and waved at them as he was again shackled and handcuffed, and at the end of the day he nodded at them as they left.
Frey, who was sentenced to 40 years in prison, is being retried because convictions of first-degree murder, burglary, robbery and criminal mischief were vacated in 2011.
The judge said that instead of burglary, Frey should have been charged with receiving stolen property for accepting money. The robbery charge made Frey eligible for a felony-murder conviction.
Authorities say Frey and Donald O'Grady suffocated Bostian while stealing a safe filled with $25,000 that her son kept in her home. At his first trial, Frey claimed he was outside the home when O'Grady killed Bostian.
O'Grady is serving a 50-year prison sentence in connection with the crime.
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