• U.S.

Nation: You Can’t Go Home Again

5 minute read
TIME

The woman they called EJ. is murdered in Trenton

When Emma Jane Stockton was a little girl, she looked forward eagerly to spending Christmas holidays with her grandparents in Trenton, N.J. They lived in a mansion called Ivy Tower that was on a charming street in New Jersey’s bustling capital. She remembered the gracious way of life, and although E.J., as her friends called her, lived with her parents in nearby Yardley, Pa., she always considered Trenton her home.

Then the city, already infected with urban blight, began to deteriorate. Industries disappeared, buildings were abandoned, people moved out. The Stockton mansion was torn down, and replaced by a gas station. E.J. herself moved on to college, to New York, to Europe.

In the mid-1960s, Trenton began to stir again. Mayor Arthur Holland decided to try to restore the now dilapidated Mercer Street as the “Georgetown of Trenton.” Hearing about the revival, E.J. began visiting the area again and three years ago bought a three-story row house at 126 Mercer Street for $4,500. “Always, always, I wanted to get back to Trenton,” she told friends. “It’s the best of all worlds. The neighbors are concerned about each other. Living on Mercer Street is perfect for me.” She spent $70,000 to restore the 200-year-old house.

Money had never been a problem; her wealthy family was one of New Jersey’s most distinguished, and an ancestor, Richard Stockton, had signed the Declaration of Independence. Free to do what she pleased, the heavyset, attractive blond worked as executive secretary of the Greater Trenton Symphony Orchestra, served as vice president of the Friends of the New Jersey State Museum, and sat on the board of the Salvation Army. Her restoration work almost completed, E.J., 37, finally moved into her Mercer Street home last September. She told friends: “I want to see Trenton regain its dignity.”

At first, the house seemed ideal, a perfect setting for EJ.’s Queen Anne furniture. At night, the street was softly illuminated by gaslight. Then E.J.’s luck began to change. First someone ripped the radio out of her sports car. Then, in mid-November, a far more serious episode occurred: a bearded man in his 20s broke into the house and raped her. Her reaction was bizarre. “If I had to be raped,” she told a friend, “I’m glad that he was the man who did it. He didn’t abuse me. He didn’t threaten me. He was gentle.”

E.J. had no thought of moving away, although her car was looted a second time and rocks later were thrown at her house. She remained curiously unshaken, never bothering to turn on her expensive burglar alarm system, and merely replacing a broken window with a plastic sheet.

Looking forward to spending another Christmas in the city she loved, E.J. made door wreaths for some of the houses in her neighborhood and helped put up the decorations for the city’s premier holiday party, the Candlelight Ball.

On the night of the dance, her date Albert Barrett, came by to pick her up When she did not answer her door, Barrett stopped a passing police car, and one of the officers entered the house with a passkey.

He found E.J. tied to her antique four-poster bed. Her larynx was crushed, anc she had died of asphyxiation, but her body bore the brutal signs of slow torture. Her face was badly bruised, her buttocks burned. Two wooden stakes had been driven into her shoulders. Her body was punctured with at least 40 stab wounds some inflicted with a screwdriver, others with a crochet needle and a corkscrew Dr. Frank Campo, the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy, estimated that she had been tormented for about three hours before dying.

The police immediately suspected that the November rapist had returned, but the autopsy revealed that E.J. had not been sexually assaulted. Detectives believe that she may have known her murderer and let the killer into the house willingly. Police are also following another lead: some of E.J.’s friends have told police that she was bisexual. Says Acting County Prosecutor James Mulvihill: “We may have a homosexual murder on our hands, possibly committed by a jealous lover.”

A crowd of 400 gathered at Trinity Cathedral last week for E.J.’s funeral service. There was a feeling of stifled rage in the congregation, and her friends spoke movingly of her vivacious spirit. Meanwhile a loaded moving van, sent by a brother, pulled away from the boarded-up house at No. 126 Mercer Street. A few of E.J.’s neighbors took the Christmas wreath off the front door. They carried it to nearby Assunpink Creek and dropped it in. The only sound was a whisper as it floated away.

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