Jahmell Crockam, the man convicted of murdering Lakewood police Officer Christopher Matlosz, a former Englishtown cop, was sentenced at the Ocean County Justice Complex on Thursday to life without parole.
Crockam showed no emotion when Superior Court Judge Wendel E. Daniels announced the sentence.
Matlosz's fiance, Kelly Walsifer, appeared composed as she read a statement to the court before the sentencing. Now should be the time for celebration, Walsifer said, as she was supposed to marry Matlosz next month, on April 21.
"That's what I should be thinking about — our wedding," said Walsifer, who attended the sentencing despite battling a cold. "The defendant stole that from us."
"Mr. Crockam was luckier than Chris. He had the opportunity to be tried by 12. Chris was carried by eight [pall bearers]," she said.
Crockam, seated in the jury box during the statements, turned his head toward Walsifer and other family as they spoke. He stared, but never showed any sign of emotion.
"I made eye contact the whole time I was up there speaking," Walsifer said following the proceedings.
When Daniels asked if Crockam wanted to make a statement before the court, he declined.
After a nine-day trial in February, , a Manchester resident, during what started off as a routine stop on August Drive in Lakewood in January of 2011. It was the first time a police officer in Ocean County was shot and killed while on duty.
He shot Matlosz, a 2001 Howell High School graduate, at point-blank range three times before fleeing to Camden, where he was caught.
Crockam appeared before Daniels for the 9 a.m. sentencing. Members of Lakewood's law enforcement community — wearing T-shirts honoring the man who wore badge No. 317 — were also in the courtroom.
Matlosz's brother, Adam, also read a statement. Just months before Matlosz was killed, the brothers' father died.
"My life was changed in ways I can't even describe," he said.
Though he did not know it at the time, Adam Matlosz said that he came to find that his brother planned to ask him to be his best man at his wedding.
"He couldn't wait to marry Kelly, the love of his life," he said.
His brother was "my mentor, my rock, my hero," Adam Matlosz said. "And now, my angel."
A family friend read the statement of Matlosz's mother, Jane Jane Coliao.
"I'm now living my worst nightmare," the statement read. "This brutal crime has left a hole in my heart."
Being a police officer was Matlosz' childhood dream, his mother's statement read, and he was an officer "who truly loved his job."
Walsifer said that she has been sick since the murder of her fiance and has been unable to work. She had to move out of the Pine Lake Park home that they shared. Matlosz is always on her mind.
"I dream about him almost every night," she said.
Prior to the sentencing, defense attorney Mark Fury asked Daniels to take into consideration that Crockam's convictions were the first in his adult life. Daniels noted that Crockam had several juvenile convictions, including one for slashing a fellow student in high school.
Crockam's actions showed that he is "depraved," William J. Heisler, chief assistant Ocean County prosecutor, told the court before the sentencing. There was nothing personal between Crockam and Matlosz; if it was not Matlosz on patrol the day of the murder, another Lakewood police officer would have been shot, he said.
"There is a need to deter Jahmell Crockam from walking the streets ever again," Heisler said. Should New Jersey still have the death penalty, Heisler said that the prosecution "would have proceeded that way."
Daniels said that there was "sufficient" evidence that Crockam's obtaining of a gun showed that the murder was "premeditated over several months," and the shooting itself — out in a community in broad daylight — showed that the convicted murderer had a "wanton disregard of human life."
Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford spoke outside of the courthouse following the sentencing. She said that law enforcement has "completed our mission here."
"I think that it's an appropriate sentence," she said. Ford said that she hoped Crockam would speak in court. "I was looking for an apology."
Crockam will also serve seven years consecutive to the murder sentence for an unlawful weapon possession conviction, Daniels said. Crockam has 45 days to appeal his sentence, the judge said.
Crockam and another Lakewood resident, Darius Johnson, also known as "Money," are charged with the murder of Lakewood resident Justin Williams.. Proceedings in that case are expected to begin in September.