Accused killer: Friend made me beat his dad with bat, at gunpoint
BRICK -- One of two men charged with killing a 55-year-old township resident told police he was forced to do it -- held at gunpoint by a friend, and forced to beat the friend's father to death with a baseball bat.
Mark J. Austin, 28, of Brick and Jeray Melton, 27, of Salem City were both arrested and charged with Mark R. Austin's murder on Sept. 7. Police were called to the elder Austin's ome on Acorn Drive in Brick on that date and found him beaten to death, according to Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer
A medical examiner determined that the father, Mark R. Austin, died from blunt trauma to the head and face, according to an affidavit obtained by New Jersey 101.5 through a Open Public Records Act Monday.
The prosecutor, in a press release at the time of the arrests, called it a "very complex case" but didn't say what led to the alleged beating. The affidavit and complaint do not address a motivation for Mark R. Austin's killing.
According to the affidavit, Mark R. Austin was found lying on a sofa in the living room of his home around 9 p.m., with blood spatter on the walls and ceiling, by friend Jeremy Londino. Mark R. Austin had called Londino around 7:45 p.m. to bring him "chips and water" earlier in the evening, according to the affidavit.
After discovering Mark R. Austin, Londino called his friend Arthur Smith and Mark R. Austin's ex-wife, Barbara Austin, who both came to the home, the affidavit states. Barbara Austin took a baseball bat she found on the kitchen floor and leaned it against a wall and cabinet, the affidavit says. Austin and her boyfriend Michael Rogers called police, according to the affidavit.
Police entered the home with a warrant and also found a beer, spoon, belt and what appeared to be apparatus used to ingest narcotics on a table, according to the affidavit.
Mark J. Austin, the son, spoke to police on Sept. 8 and told them a version of events that turned out to not be true, the affidavit said.
He and his 4-year-old son had slept at the home the night before, according to the affidavit. He told investigators his father said he was going to Bayonne to buy heroin from an individual he only knew as "The Shadow," according to the affidavit.
Mark J. Austin told investigators his father asked him to go to a location on Route 70 near Route 72 to pick up a "black male" with a red cap and a beard who would be standing on the standing on the side of the road, according to the affidavit.
Mark J. Austin also told investigators he made the trip and brought the man back to his home in Brick, according to the affidavit. He said he left the man alone, dropped off his dogs at his mother's home and then picked the man up and brought him back to the spot on Route 70, where he picked him up, according to the affidavit.
Mark J. Austin said he then decided to go to Philadelphia, where he bought two cheesesteaks, according to the affidavit. During that trip, he told investigators, a neighbor called him around 11 p.m. and told him his father was dead, according to the affidavit.
Mark J. Austin said that on the return trip, he had to pull over "numerous times to calm himself down," according to the affidavit. Officers interviewed him at the home and took his cell phone and smart watch pending warrant, according to the affidavit.
After a warrant was obtained, a forensics exam was performed on another cell phone found in a desk used by Mark J. Austin, according to the affidavit. The exam found the app that is used to review and store video surveillance that both father and son had access to, according to the affidavit.
Mark J. Austin told police that the security cameras found in the home didn't work and told them they would not find footage from Sept. 7, according to the affidavit. However, a review of footage from the day was found, contradicting his earlier statement, according to the affidavit.
Mark R. Austin's cell phone was located on Route 70 near Route 539 in Manchester, while Mark J. Austin's cell phone was determined to have been in the same area around 4 p.m on Sept. 7, according to the affidavit.
The cell phone that was found in the desk was determined to be an old phone used by Mark J. Austin that was also used to have a Facebook message conversation with Jeray Melton around 7:15 p.m., according to the affidavit.
It quotes the conversation:
"He went in his room to do his hit he told me he was a junky he noticed the cameras"
"He said someone is on there (sp) way"
"(Image: thumbs up)"
"I'm ready but he said someone is coming"
The affidavit does not disclose context for the message, or say which participant made which statements.
According to the affidavit, Mark J. Austin and Melton knew each other because they were bunkmates from March 2016 and May 2016 at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility.
After locating and identifying Melton in Salem City, the Salem County Prosecutor's Office took him into custody during a traffic stop, according to the affidavit. He was taken into custody and questioned after waiving his Miranda rights, according to the affidavit.
Melton said he was taken by Mark J. Austin to Brick, where Austin "threatened him with a handgun and forced Melton to strike Austin's father multiple times in the head with a bat resulting in his death," according to the affidavit.
Melton told investigators after following the instruction Austin took him back to Salem City where Austin had him take his clothes off, put them in a garbage bag, pour bleach on them and put them in a dumpster.
Both Mark J. Austin and Melton were charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and unlawful possession of a weapon. They are being held in the Ocean County Jail pending a detention hearing.
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