Pine Barrens drugs & ‘murder’ — Accused killer’s family turns him in
PEMBERTON TOWNSHIP — His own flesh and blood ratted him out to the cops.
And what otherwise might have been a well-camouflaged grave, deep in the remote woods, was spotted by a sharp-eyed hunter who stumbled onto the site.
That's how investigators collared 55-year-old township resident Charles McGee, charging him last month with first-degree murder of his supposed friend, 48-year-old William Cline Jr.
Cline was reported missing by his girlfriend on Aug. 21. His body was unearthed by the State Police Missing Persons Unit on Aug. 24. An autopsy the next day concluded that Cline had been shot in the back of the neck, a .22-caliber projective was found in his mouth.
The motive of the shooting appears to be drug related.
On Aug. 17, McGee had called police from his job at the Browns Mills Domino's to report that he was being harassed by Cline, the man who would go missing days later. McGee told police that Cline was forcing him into the drug business and that Cline had threatened him with violence if he didn't pay the money he owed for drugs, according to an affidavit filed by police.
McGee told police that he threatened to take his own life but Cline told him that he would kill his grandchildren if McGee committed suicide, the affidavit recounts. McGee did not press charges.
Police heard about McGee and Cline again three days later when McGee's wife and adult son and daughter came into the police station.
McGee's son told police that his father that morning had told him point blank: "I shot Billy Cline." This was after McGee had asked his son to help load a heavy rolled-up tarp into the back of his truck. The son had assumed it was road kill, but noted that it seemed too heavy, police said.
McGee's wife told police that she had assumed that the tarp was covering the kind of marijuana plants that her husband sometimes brought home. She said it was odd that McGee was around that morning because he usually spent the day with his friend Cline.
McGee's daughter said that she had noticed a gun in the home a day earlier, even though the family claimed to be unaware of McGee owning any firearms.
The family went to police that day after the son told his mother what McGee had said.
On the afternoon of that same day, a hunter went off a dirt trail near Whitesbog Village in the Brendan T. Byrne State Forest hoping to find some property that had been stolen. He noticed that there were tire tracks in the area but didn't find what he was looking for and so he left without giving it further thought.
Two days later, however, the man learned about Cline being missing and also that police had been looking for a body off Whitebogs Road. He put two and two together and figured that Cline's body could be buried at that site off the trail. He decided to go back the next day and check again.
The man returned to the remote site on Aug. 24 and noticed a freshly cut branch, fresh dirt in a few areas, pine needles arranged in what appeared to be camouflage but with finger marks visible in the dirt. The man alerted an off-duty cop he knew, who in turn contacted township police, the affidavit says.
A cadaver dog detected the scent of a body at the site. Troopers dug up the suspected grave and encountered a gray tarp 18 inches down. In the tarp was the body of a man, quickly identified as Cline.
McGee was charged with one count of first-degree murder, one count of desecration of human remains, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and possession of a firearm without a permit to carry.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.