Sighs of relief, applause, and thank-yous came from the teary-eyed friends and family of Ernesto Torres on Wednesday when a judge set bail for Jonathan Cruz at $1 million.
Cruz, 23, is accused of murdering Torres, 22, of Camden, in April. He was arrested June 2 in Massachusetts, where he had moved from Camden after the killing.
According to the probable-cause document presented in court by Camden County Assistant Prosecutor Christopher St. John, just after 8 p.m. April 3, a witness saw Cruz approach Torres on Wayne Avenue in Camden and point a gun at his head. Cruz asked, "What are you going to do now?" before shooting several times, St. John said.
Torres ran through adjacent yards and was found on the back steps of a house on Lincoln Avenue, which parallels Wayne Avenue.
The slaying was the result of a series of arguments, according to a news release from the Camden County Prosecutor's Office. The Inquirer reported last month that the family believed the disagreements were over a woman.
Arguing for bail to be set at $50,000, Edward Crisonino, Cruz's attorney, said his client was not a significant flight risk and planned to plead not guilty.
"He did absolutely nothing to hide who he was, where he was," Crisonino said. He noted that Cruz had met with prosecutors before moving to Massachusetts, where he had a job at a pizzeria and had lined up another job at UPS at the time of his arrest, to give them information regarding where and how he could be reached.
Cruz, he said, felt threatened by Torres' family and "went to Massachusetts to be safe."
St. John replied that it was not uncommon for a suspect to visit police in what he called a quasi-"phishing" operation to better understand how much investigators know and how far along the investigation is.
Superior Court Judge Irvin J. Snyder sided with the prosecution.
Snyder said that given Cruz's connections outside the state, in addition to previous charges - including a hindering-apprehension charge for allegedly providing false information to police and disorderly-person charges - he felt compelled to set the bail higher.
The judge added that $1 million was still lower than what he usually sets for a crime of such severity.
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