An appellate court has ordered a mother and son charged in the decades-old murders of two relatives in New Jersey to remain behind bars to allow prosecutors time to appeal a judge’s order granting their release as they await a retrial.
Superior Court Judge Joseph W. Oxley ordered the release of 69-year-old Dolores Morgan and 49-year-old Ted Connors from the Monmouth County Jail, but an appellate judge issued a stay of that order Friday afternoon, the Asbury Park Press reported.
Their first trial ended in a mistrial after jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict following a week of deliberations in the murders of Morgan’s daughter and husband in Long Branch. Prosecutors allege that Morgan, then known as Dolores Connors, orchestrated both killings during meetings in the kitchen of the family home.
Ana Mejia, 25, was stabbed 22 times in her Long Branch apartment in December 1994 while her two children, ages 1 and 3, were present, authorities said. Nicholas Connors, 51, was shot three times in the head in May 1995 as he lay on the couch watching television in the family home.
A prosecution witness alleged in testimony that Morgan feared that Mejia, arrested in a state police cocaine sting, would provide evidence against her and her son. The murders remained unsolved until a cold case squad revived the investigation in 2017. The defendants, who now live in Delray Beach, Florida, were arrested in January 2020.
Defense attorneys Jason Seidman, representing Connors, said the prosecution’s case was predicated “on the word of a snitch who got the deal of a lifetime.”
“She’s waited a long time to hug her husband and her son, breathe fresh air, eat real food and have a night’s sleep without 10 people screaming,” Seidman said.
Attorney Jonathan Petty, representing Connors, said his client had been incarcerated for 645 days and “has a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old that he’s watching grow up in pictures.” After the judge ordered his release, Petty said, ““He said to me, ‘The next time I see my daughter, you won’t be showing me a picture.’”
“It’s the state’s position they murdered two people,” Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Meghan Doyle said. “It’s our obligation to keep the people safe, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”