Christopher Costello said it was his younger brother who killed a West Windsor, N.J., man whose body they buried in the backyard of their Lumberton home.
His brother Bryan was the killer, Costello said, while he merely helped dispose of the corpse.
On Wednesday, a Burlington County jury accepted that testimony and acquitted Costello of murder in the death of 23-year-old Justin Dubois.
But Costello, 29, was convicted of hindering apprehension and desecration of remains after he admitted that he helped wrap the body in a sheet and a tarp, and buried it in a grave next to a backyard swimming pool. The jury deadlocked on a charge of aggravated manslaughter.
Prosecutors will retry him on that charge in July, said Joel Bewley, a spokesman for the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office.
Costello and his brother, 26, were both accused of killing Dubois in October 2016. They remain in jail on $500,000 bail each. Bryan Costello will stand trial for murder next month.
The brothers were arrested a few days after Dubois’ mother filed a missing-person report.
Police learned that Dubois was last seen at the home the brothers shared with their widowed father on a quiet cul de sac. Neighbors said they were shaken by the murder, though in recent years they had suspected illegal drug dealing at the home after seeing numerous cars coming and going during the daytime when the father was working.
Police said that the Costello home had been under surveillance for drug activity and that they discovered the grave near a backyard pool after questioning the brothers. They said Dubois was bludgeoned to death between Oct. 27 and Nov. 3.
The home is now vacant, following a foreclosure.
The brothers gave statements to police but they were ruled inadmissible in court because investigators had failed to read them their rights.
At his trial, Christopher Costello testified that his brother woke him in the early hours and said that he had a fight with their drug dealer, Dubois, and it got “out of control,” according to the Burlington County Times. He said he didn’t witness the fight but helped his brother wrap Dubois’ body in a sheet and tarp and bury it, the newspaper said.
Bonnie Geller-Gorman, Christopher Costello’s public defender, was not immediately available for comment. The Prosecutor’s Office declined to comment on the verdict.
The trial was held before Superior Court Judge Jeanne T. Covert in Mount Holly. The jury deliberated for more than two days.