A South Jersey father who admitted to manslaughter in the killing of his 3-year-old son will spend the next decade behind bars.
David "DJ" Creato suffocated his 3-year-old son, Brendan, and left his body in a wooded area next to a Camden County, New Jersey, neighborhood in 2015, according to a plea deal.
"I sentence you to 10 years in prison," the judge said Friday while giving Creato the maximum sentence.
The 24-year-old will be required to serve 8 1/2 years before being eligible for parole.
Prosecutors read victim statements and played a montage of photos of Brendan before the judge handed down the sentence as Creato, in a red prison jumpsuit, stood in shackles aside his attorney Richard Fuschino, Jr.
Creato admitted to depriving Brendan of oxygen to end his life and pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter in the killing, prosecutors said.
County prosecutors alleged Creato, 22 at the time, murdered the preschooler because he was fearful his 17-year-old girlfriend would leave him.
Creato was facing a September retrial after a jury failed to convict him on a murder charge in the killing before he plead.
Creato's defense attorney said he doesn't believe his client murdered the boy.
"I'm not convinced yet that he did what the prosecution says that he did in the trial," Fuschino said last month. "DJ Creato did not plead guilty to murder. He pleaded guilty to recklessly causing the situation that caused his son's death."
Brendan's body was discovered in a wooded area of Haddon Township by the Cooper River in October 2015. DJ Creato said, at the time, the boy wandered away from home and maintained that a stranger killed his son.
During the April murder trial, prosecutors argued that Brendan didn't walk into the woods alone. They said the boy was very afraid of the dark and that the boy wasn't wearing shoes, yet the soles of his bright socks were clean.
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DJ Creato was also recorded by his son's mother talking about "a spirit" drawing the child into the woods. The mother, Samantha Denoto, made the recording at the request of prosecutors.
The case ended in a hung jury, and prosecutors vowed to retry him before he plead guilty.
Despite the plea deal, Fuschino maintained that Creato doesn't know exactly what happened the night of his son's death.
"I believe him sincere in his wondering what happened and his desire to find out what happened," Fuschino said.
Fuschino also claimed no motive was entered and that his client feels remorseful.
"He does feel a great deal of remorse and guilt for the fact that his son did die," Fuschino said.