Annals of New Jersey Crime

The Trenton, N.J., Times, recently devoted several pages to a true-crime mystery from the Garden State. Reporter Rebecca Everett detailed the investigation and failed prosecutions of the murder of 77-year-old John Kingsbury. Kingsbury died on Super Bowl Sunday 2012 at his home in Mullica, a rural township in New Jersey’s Pinelands area. His son Glenn, who returned home and discovered the body, as well as first responders, thought a fall or stroke accounted for the blood on and around the elderly man’s head. None of them saw the bullet holes from a gun described as “small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.”

Glenn and his girlfriend, Karen Drew, cleaning up, found two spent .380 shell casings and called emergency services immediately. Too late. John died before reaching the hospital, and they had just cleaned up a murder scene. Now, eleven years later, no one has been convicted of John Kingsbury’s murder. Reporter Everett says the cold case is “filled with enough shocking twists, shadowy characters and law enforcement bungling to fill a ‘Knives Out’ sequel.”

Who are John and Glenn Kingsbury?

John Kingsbury was a retired RCA electronics specialist, a member of Mensa, and Korean War veteran who trained K-9s. In shaky health, he’d moved to New Jersey a few months before his death to live with his son. Glenn and Karen own lucrative cheerleading event companies Cheer Tech and Spirit Brands. When they return home after a typical event, they’re holding tens of thousands of dollars in cash. “Anyone who worked with them would know that,” Everett wrote, “Including Michael Castro.”

Robbery seemed the likely motive.

The Crime

John Kingsbury was at home alone when the killer or killers arrived at the family home. There was no weekend’s worth of event receipts, Karen Drew had already taken them to the bank.

Police found no indication of a break-in, and nothing appeared to be missing, but, unexpectedly, the video surveillance system had been disabled. Karen’s suspicion immediately fell on Castro, who she said had been pestering her that afternoon with cell phone calls about her and family members’ whereabouts. What’s more, Castro owed Glenn several thousand dollars, some of which he’d used to set up a mixed martial arts studio.

After the lead detective, Michael Mattioli, interviewed Castro four days after the killing, Castro immediately called a Camden County Sheriff’s Officer he knew, Lauren Kohl. It wasn’t until after she was contacted by Mattioli that Kohl reported two handguns missing from her home.

An Investigation Botched from the Start

The Atlantic County prosecutors worked on the case against Michael Castro for more than a year, in an investigation “torpedoed by errors and oversights,” Everett was told. Among them:

  • Investigators lost track of John’s cellphone, so it couldn’t be analyzed for years
  • They had a warrant to search Castro’s vehicle, but didn’t do it
  • They didn’t ask the medical examiner to estimate the time of the shooting
  • They didn’t collect surveillance footage from area stores that might have confirmed whether Castro (or other possible suspects) were in the area
  • They didn’t subpoena the cellphones of other possible suspects to confirm their locations
  • And, when it appeared one of Lauren Kohl’s missing handguns might be the murder weapon (and eventually was proved to be, on what basis is unclear, as the gun is apparently still missing), it was months before investigators actually followed up with her.

During this period, the prosecutor’s office had internal organizational problems, handing off the Kingsbury murder to three separate lead investigators in just over a year. Months passed between any investigatory actions they logged, with much not logged at all. The cellphone evidence fell apart. Stories changed. New suspects emerged, fogging the investigatory lenses.

Tomorrow: Michael Castro’s Day—Make that Decade—in Court

2 thoughts on “Annals of New Jersey Crime

  1. Pingback: Annals of New Jersey Crime, Part 2 | Victoria Weisfeld

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