A renewed hunt for a South Jersey family's killer, 40 years later

Kristen Johanson
November 01, 2018 - 1:42 pm
Joan and Gary Deal with their son Jason.

New Jersey State Police

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — New Jersey investigators are renewing their push to find the person or persons responsible for brutally murdering a young family 40 years ago. The Deal family was found with their throats slashed inside their Atlantic County home in October 1978. Detectives hope that advancements in DNA forensics could lead to the killer.

Gary and Joan Deal, both 26 years old, were also shot and stabbed. Their 3-year-old son Jason was lying on his bed, in his pajamas, inside their Folsom Township home, just off Mays Landing Road. 

New Jersey State Police Detective Mario Nocito says the killings sent a shockwave through the community.

"I think there was a lot of fear at the time," Nocito said.

Nocito says investigators worked the case for decades, interviewing hundreds of people, taking them to different states to follow up. But they were never able to narrow in on a suspect. 

"They did collect a lot of useful evidence, DNA," he said. "There were good leads that the detectives went to and, you know, ran out. But DNA advancement isn't like what we have today."

Nocito is now resubmitting balistic and DNA evidence to specialized labs, in hopes the forensics will create a full genetic profile.

"Hopefully we can connect that to a potential suspect," he said, possibly through a relative whose DNA is already catalogued in the national database CODIS.

He also hopes that, within the last 40 years, relationships might have have changed and someone will come forward.