Three suspects were arrested in the alleged slaying of a New Jersey woman whose bludgeoned body was found last month in the trunk of her car, officials said.
Stephanie DeJesus, a 38-year-old hospital technician, was found lifeless inside the trunk of her 2016 Lincoln MKZ on the morning of Feb. 25 in Paterson, according to court records and a Thursday statement from the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.
Police had responded to a report of suspicious vehicle when they made the gruesome discovery, officials said.
“Initially, her injuries appeared to be the result of a gunshot wound, however following an autopsy the Medical Examiner determined that the injuries and the cause of death were the result of blunt force trauma. Ms. DeJesus was pronounced deceased on the scene,” according to the statement from Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes.
DeJesus’ mother declined comment. Other family members could not be reached Tuesday.
Three suspects — Justin Fisher, 29, Ali Gibson, 51, and Joelle Martucci, 24, all from Totowa — have been arrested and charged with first-degree murder and first-degree conspiracy to commit murder.
On the evening of Feb. 23 — the day investigators believe DeJesus was killed — she drove her Lincoln to Totowa, less than 3 miles southwest of Paterson. She was seen at a pharmacy and then at a home, an affidavit said.
That home was where Martucci lived with Fisher, her fiancé, according to the affidavit. The two were in the process of moving out, Martucci told investigators, per the affidavit.
The affidavit says Martucci told investigators she saw Fisher and Gibson, Fisher’s father, “carrying a large box/bag to the trunk of the victim’s car.”
Martucci did not see DeJesus’ body, the affidavit said. Later on Feb. 23, she drove to Paterson to pick up Gibson at a fast-food restaurant and drove him back to Totowa.
Martucci was arrested on Feb. 28, officials said. Fisher and Gibson surrendered without incident to the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday, officials said.
Matthew Troiano, who is representing Gibson, said Tuesday his client pleaded not guilty during an initial appearance in court last week. He declined further comment.
Alissa D. Hascup, an attorney who represents Fisher, said in an email Tuesday her client also pleaded not guilty.
Martucci’s lawyer was not reached for comment.
DeJesus’ obituary said she was born and raised in Paterson. She worked as a cardiovascular technician for St. Michael’s Hospital, Newark. She also had a son, according to the obituary.
All three defendants were being held in the county jail on Tuesday afternoon, according to online records.
Their next scheduled hearing, a detention hearing, is on Friday, officials said.
Antonio Planas is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.