Body believed to be that of missing N.J. man

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. - Off a muddy, deeply rutted dirt lane to a hay field, a farmer making his early rounds Sunday discovered a body that may be the remains of a Hudson County tourist kidnapped from an Atlantic City casino garage more than a week ago.

The likely remains of Martin Caballero, 47, a grocery store manager from North Bergen, were found around 6:30 a.m., Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel said.

He would not elaborate on why he could not confirm the body was Caballero's, but indicated that investigators needed scientific data from a military database - not available until Tuesday because of the holiday weekend - for a positive ID. The victim had served in the armed forces, he said.

Calls Sunday to Caballero relatives were not returned.

Housel indicated that evidence at the scene made him "highly confident" that the remains were Caballero's. He would not say whether Caballero appeared to have been a random or targeted victim.

Caballero vanished May 21 shortly after he arrived in Atlantic City around 10:30 p.m. with two carloads of relatives to celebrate his daughter's 22d birthday and dropped her and his wife off at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort.

With the aid of surveillance video, investigators knew that after Caballero parked in the casino garage, a woman and a man approached him. His white Lincoln then pulled out of the garage, followed by a silver Toyota.

Caballero's ATM card was later used to withdraw $300 from a bank and buy fire-starting apparatus and $5 worth of gas in a container. His Lincoln was found burning in a secluded spot in Gloucester Township, about 50 miles from where he apparently had been abducted several hours earlier.

"Good, old-fashioned police work" and the help of the U.S. Marshals Service led investigators to two suspects staying at the Golden Key Motel in Egg Harbor Township on Friday morning, Housel said. Arrested were Craig Brian Arno, 44, of Atlantic City, a career criminal who had been released from prison two months ago, and Jessica Kisby, 24, of Egg Harbor Township, who had just been released from jail March 3 and is the mother of a 5-year-old.

Both were charged with first-degree kidnapping and carjacking and jailed after failing to post $400,000 cash bail. Housel said Sunday that charges had not yet been upgraded against the pair, whom he said had "a relationship."

Kisby is a 2004 graduate of Egg Harbor Township High School. Two years ago, she pleaded guilty to an aggravated-assault charge. Published reports indicate that she was arrested after a man she drove from an Egg Harbor Township motel brandished a gun that discharged during a struggle. She served her sentence in the county justice facility, according to court records.

Neighbors in Kisby's middle-class neighborhood in the township's Scullville section, where she lived with her mother, Mary, said they were surprised by the reports involving the young woman. They said she had kept to herself and sometimes could be seen visiting with her child's father at the home. No one in the area had seen Arno until news reports about the kidnapping surfaced.

Arno's criminal history dates to 1981, when he was 16. He was drag-racing at up to 80 m.p.h. on City Avenue near 77th Street in Philadelphia's Overbrook Park section when his car slammed head-on into a vehicle driven by a young nurse. Karen McNaughton of Media was declared dead on arrival at Lankenau Hospital, where she had been headed for work.

A murder charge was reduced to manslaughter in 1982, and Arno was sentenced to five years of probation, during which he could not drive or own a vehicle. He was arrested again three years later after weaving in traffic on City Avenue.

Over the next 20 years, Arno was in and out of trouble, spending several years in federal prison on bank-fraud, counterfeiting, and other charges. He was last released March 29 after a two-year sentence for credit-card fraud. A judge had made treatment for mental illness a condition of the release, and ordered Arno to attend Gamblers Anonymous meetings and not to gamble. Arno was also told to add his name to the Atlantic City casinos' self-exclusion list, although it does not appear in the database.

Investigators knew that Caballero's Lincoln had traveled west on the Atlantic City Expressway before leaving it at Exit 12, near the Hamilton Mall in the Mays Landing-Hamilton Township area. The car returned to the toll road about 45 minutes later, according to investigators.

The body was found within three miles of the exit.

"My heart goes out to the family," said Housel, who indicated that he had informed Caballero's relatives about the latest discovery. The family apparently had conducted its own search, passing out leaflets in Atlantic City.

On a remote patch of farmland off Leipzig Avenue in Hamilton Township owned by his family since 1863, Ted Liepe, 54, discovered the body just after the sun came up.

"This spot is so dark at night. There is nothing around here," Liepe's nephew Andy, 18, said as he observed where the body had apparently matted the tall grass. "Nobody would have seen anything."

A tiny red flag had been placed where the body had been, and plastic gloves - the type worn by forensics investigators - were strewed about.

Patriarch Arnold Liepe, 78, who had pointed out the spot, said he was in disbelief.

"This is a peaceful area, been a farm for 150 years," he said. "It's just horrible what they did to that man . . . horrible."

At his home, Ted Liepe's brother, Dale, said his brother was too tired and shaken to speak with reporters.


Contact staff writer Jacqueline L. Urgo at 609-652-8382 or jurgo@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writer James Osborne contributed to this article.