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Detective denies key evidence was planted in 2006 murder case

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Jan 06 2013 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 08 2013 09:26:13 AM CST

Thor Frey retrial continues

BELVIDERE, N.J. -

A detective who investigated the suffocation death of a Warren County woman seven years ago denied from the witness stand Monday afternoon that he planted a key piece of evidence.

Michael Zwick, of the Phillipsburg police department, emphatically answered no when prosecutor Kelly Shelton asked him directly if he placed a medallion implicating Thor Frey on the living room floor of Mary Bostian's home just hours after the 75-year-old woman was found bound and suffocated at the foot of her bed on Aug. 18, 2006.

In response to another direct question from Shelton, Zwick denied that the medallion with a Thor's hammer design was planted by the man who found it after Zwick overlooked it earlier, Detective Thomas Carroll, of the Warren County Prosecutor's Office.

Shelton put the questions to Zwick soon after defense attorney Michael Priarone asked the detective about an entry in his nine-page, single- spaced report on Bostian's murder, saying, "[The] entry at 1:15 p.m. ... That's Detective Carroll showing you a medallion he supposedly found on the living room floor?"

Priarone also pressed Zwick on three other points. He wanted to know why Zwick no longer had any of the hand-written notes he used to compile his report. He questioned why Zwick could immediately spot a hammer and screwdriver on the living room floor on the day of the robbery and murder, but not a medallion. And Priarone had Zwick admit that Frey's then-estranged wife, Naomi Frey, and Bostian's son, John Counterman, who were living together, were allowed access to the crime scene shortly after Zwick arrived at 9 a.m.

Zwick was the last of Monday's nine witnesses called by the prosecution to help make the case against Frey, who was convicted in 2009 of first-degree murder, burglary, robbery and criminal mischief.

Frey, who was sentenced to 40 years in prison, is being retried because an appellate court vacated the convictions in 2011.

Zwick testified that he arrived at Bostian's home about 9 a.m. to begin his investigation, and that Carroll found the medallion with a Thor's hammer design at about 1:15 p.m.

Zwick said he knew through a July 26, 2006, photo that Thor Frey had such a medallion, and on Aug. 25, the day after Frey was arrested, Zwick was able to search the home Frey shared with his girlfriend, Robin O'Grady, the ex-wife of his convicted accomplice, Donald O'Grady Jr.

Zwick said he found a medallion while searching a jewelry box in the home, but it wasn't the one in the photograph. "It was silver, with various designs that were different from the one found in Mrs. Bostian's home," he said.

Counterman, of Mount Bethel, Northampton Co., was on the witness stand for 40 minutes Monday morning talking about the safe he installed in his mother's home.

Authorities say Frey and O'Grady suffocated Bostian while stealing the safe, which was filled with $25,000 in cash and coins, as well as coin wrappers, a 9 millimeter pistol and receipts from Counterman's construction business.

Counterman testified that $4,500 in cash and between $800 to $1,000 in coins has been returned to him.

He said he and his mother were the only people who knew exactly where the safe was located in her home on Thomas Street, and that only he knew the combination.

Speaking rapidly in clipped sentences and a low voice, Counterman said he built a wooden frame in one of the second-floor closets in his mother's home to disguise the safe, and that a long leather coat and a gown owned by his sister were also used to helped conceal the safe.

Counterman also described how he was called to his mother's home from a construction job in Lower Nazareth Township, Northampton Co., hours after she was murdered.

He also testified that he recognized a cross and another piece of jewelry shown to him by police at the scene as similar to ones that that were hanging from the visor of his car, and that the jewelry was purchased by Frey's now ex-wife, Naomi.

Counterman said he and Naomi Frey had been living together for two years when his mother was murdered.

Under cross examination, Counterman admitted four other people may have known of the existence of the safe, but he maintained that they either did not know where the safe was or where his mother lived.

Before Counterman's testimony, Judge Ann R. Barrett ruled on a bizarre argument that brought testimony to a sudden end last Friday.

She said Palmer Twp., Northampton Co., K-9 officer Glenn Sipel would only have to repeat the command "bite" he gave to his partner Kahn in Czechoslovakian when they captured Frey in a thicket behind the Travel Inn Hotel in Plainfield Twp., Northampton Co., six days after Bostian's murder.

Defense lawyer Priarone wanted Sipel to repeat all three commands he gave his Hungarian-born, Czech Republic-trained German Shepherd, because he said it would show Frey's state of mind at he time he was bitten on the leg and pulled from the thicket by Kahn.

But prosecutor Shelton objected, saying having the words repeated in open court might jeopardize the officer at a later date.

After the judge's ruling, Priarone questioned Sipel for several minutes, but oddly, he never asked him to say anything in Czechoslovakian.

Most of the other witnesses Monday were law enforcement officers describing their roles in Frey's arrest on Aug. 24.

McLean Peeke, a Pennsylvania State trooper who retired last year, testified that on that day, he found Counterman's safe with the door removed, his pistol and coin wrappers scattered about in a secluded area off True Blue Road in Washington Township, Northampton Co.