Skip to main content

Mother, son, and suspect dead as 3 hostages freed

By Laura Ly, CNN
May 12, 2013 -- Updated 1739 GMT (0139 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Police forced entry into home after call from concerned relative
  • The bodies of Carmelita Stevens and her 13-year-old son were found in the home
  • During standoff, three of her children were held hostage; another hid in basement
  • Suspect Gerald Tyrone Murphy, 38, was shot and killed by police

(CNN) -- Police burst into a home early Sunday in Trenton, New Jersey, finding a woman and her 13-year-old son dead, and three of her other children being held hostage, authorities said.

The suspect, Gerald Tyrone Murphy, 38, was shot by police and died from his wounds, authorities said at a news conference Sunday. The hostages were ages 18, 16, and 4, police said.

The raid ended a 37-hour standoff that began Friday afternoon when police responded to a phone call from a family member of Carmelita Stevens, who had not heard from her for a period of time. They received additional information that Stevens' two daughters had not been to school in 12 days.

Police received no response at the door. Fearing for the safely of the family, authorities made a forced entry into the home and immediately smelled an odor "consistent with a decomposing body," police said. The officers also noticed maggots throughout the house, Trenton Police Director Ralph Rivera said.

Following a male voice upstairs, police spoke to Murphy, who informed them that there was a body in the room with him, as well as another body in the rear bedroom. Police also determined that Murphy had three people barricaded in the room with him: two females aged 18 and 16 and a 4-year-old boy. Police later discovered that Stevens' 19-year-old son was hiding in the basement.

Murphy told officers that he was armed with guns and explosives. Police observed Murphy brandishing a black handgun through a window, said Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini.

"There are also allegations that the 16- and 18-year-old girls were abused and assaulted during the time they were held hostage," said Bocchini.

Hostage negotiators maintained contact with Murphy on and off throughout the standoff. Meanwhile, police sent supplies to the children and waited for the right moment to confront Murphy.

"The welfare of the children being held hostage was of paramount concern. We passed food and bottled water through an upper window, watching and waiting for the best opportunity to end this standoff safely," said New Jersey State Police Col. Rick Fuentes.

About 3:45 a.m. Sunday, authorities entered the upstairs room, confronted Murphy and rescued the three hostages. A single shot was fired by New Jersey State Police "to stop a threatening action against one of the children by Murphy," said Fuentes.

Murphy was wounded, taken into custody and taken to a nearby medical center, where he later died of his injuries. No law enforcement officers were injured.

A preliminary investigation found that Stevens, 44, and her 13-year-old son were killed approximately two weeks ago, police said. They believe both were killed around the same time.

Investigators also found that an arrest warrant was out in Pennsylvania for Murphy for failing to register as a sex offender. Additionally, they found Murphy had an extensive record of violence, including convictions for aggravated assault and criminal conspiracy, as well as arrests for robbery, weapons offenses, and child endangerment.

The three people held hostage have been taken to a medical center for treatment and evaluation. The 19-year-old was also medically evaluated and is now staying with family.

Police said Murphy was Stevens' boyfriend, but was not the father of any of the children involved. A motive has not yet been determined and the case remains under investigation.

CNN's Josh Levs and Rande Iaboni contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0023 GMT (0823 HKT)
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0703 GMT (1503 HKT)
Our whole solar system appears to be inside a searing gas bubble, scientists say.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0002 GMT (0802 HKT)
One journalist murdered, another still being held by ISIS -- a ransom negotiator talks to CNN about the delicate business of trying to get a hostage home alive.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0223 GMT (1023 HKT)
The accidental killing of a gun instructor raises an "absurd question," writes Mel Robbins.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
ISIS has made surprise gains in Iraq and Syria in recent months, but may begin to suffer setbacks on the battlefield.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
The fear of Russian invasion is receding but peace may still be tricky to find.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1228 GMT (2028 HKT)
Was a police officer justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown?
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0815 GMT (1615 HKT)
Don't like the country you live in? Meet the people who created their own "micronations."
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 2157 GMT (0557 HKT)
The signs exist that indicate U.S. airstrikes into Syria are on the way.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 0946 GMT (1746 HKT)
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT