The woman who prosecutors say sent an alleged killer into a jealous rage took the stand on Wednesday. Holly Patterson, who shares the last name of the victims but is not related to them, testified on the second day of the murder trial of Patrick Latko.
Latko, 32, is accused of stabbing 29-year-old Ryan Patterson and his mother, 64-year-old Diana Patterson, to death in their Hammonton home back on November 3, 2011.
Ryan was found dead in a bedroom while Diana was found in the kitchen near the back door. Ryan suffered more than 20 stab wounds and Diana more than 10. A knife was found half a mile from the house. Latko was arrested four weeks after their deaths and charged with murder.
Prosecutors say Latko knew the mother and son well. Latko's profile picture on Facebook showed him and four friends in a car together, including Ryan. Latko is also tagged in numerous pictures with his alleged victim.
According to photos and friends’ comments on Facebook, Latko attended Pennco Tech, a career training school, with Patterson.
Prosecutors suspect that Latko was jealous of Ryan because he had been spending time with his ex-girlfriend Holly.
"He saw Ryan Patterson as an obstacle for reconciliation, so he murdered him," said Cary Shill, the Atlantic County assistant prosecutor.
On Wednesday, Holly told jurors she became intimate with Ryan months after refusing Latko's marriage proposal. Holly says Latko had become obsessively jealous and controlling in their relationship. She also said Latko confronted her and Ryan in September of 2011, two months before the murders.
"He said, 'I can't believe you would do this to me,'" said Holly.
During court on Tuesday, prosecutors played the 911 call Patterson made the morning he was murdered. Prosecutors say the victim begged for his life and identified Latko in the recording, crying out "Pat, I didn't do anything, please." On Wednesday, prosecutors showed a video of Latko arriving at a storage facility in Deptford, claiming the footage took place 37 minutes after the 911 call. The video shows Latko arriving in a sweatshirt and then leaving in a change of clothes.
On Tuesday, loved ones of the victims covered their eyes and held back tears as crime scene photos of the victims' bodies were shown to the jury. Prosecutors also say Latko dropped his cell phone a few feet from Ryan's body. Prosecutors claim the phone showed a text message in which Latko talked about how much he missed Holly and promised there would be "a dead man" if he found out who she was talking to.
Despite what the prosecutors say, Latko's lawyer, Kevin Moses, has maintained his client's innocence.
"There isn't a stitch of scientific evidence against this client," he said. "No blood, no fingerprints, no witnesses, no confession."
Latko's trial is expected to last for two weeks.
(Diana and Ryan Patterson)