WOODBURY, N.J. - A man who is accused of killing a New Jersey man he says sexually abused him in childhood, and who is considered a person of interest in the deaths of his ex-wife and three others in New Mexico, has said he is responsible for a total of 16 slayings, prosecutors say.
Sean Lannon, 47, said he was responsible for the killings in New Jersey and New Mexico — that he had killed his wife and others, including "11 other individuals," NJ.com quoted Alec Gutierrez, an assistant prosecutor in suburban Philadelphia's Gloucester County, New Jersey, as saying during a detention hearing Friday.
"He admitted to killing a total of 16 people ... 15 being in New Mexico and one in the state of New Jersey. It’s my understanding that the FBI is assisting New Mexico in their investigation," Gutierrez said.
Authorities allege in court documents that the admission came in a phone call to a family member who told Gloucester County investigators that Lannon expressed remorse.
Lannon was arrested in St. Louis on Wednesday morning after a search that stretched from New Jersey to Missouri. He was driving a car stolen from Michael Dabkowski, the New Jersey victim. He is behind bars in New Jersey.
He is accused of breaking into the 66-year-old Dabkowski’s home and beating him with a hammer Monday, according to an affidavit.
Lannon is also a person of interest in the death of his wife and three others in New Mexico. Authorities say a vehicle was discovered last week in a garage at Albuquerque International Sunport, New Mexico's largest airport, containing four bodies.
The bodies were later identified as Jennifer Lannon, 39; Matthew Miller, 21; Jesten Mata, 40; and Randal Apostalon, 60. Sean Lannon lived 80 miles (130 kilometers) away in Grants, New Mexico.
Gutierrez alleged Friday that Lannon admitted to luring several victims to a home in New Mexico and dismembering some of them.
Apart from the five deaths already described by investigators, authorities hadn't earlier spoken of any other killings in which Lannon was a suspect. He has been charged only in the New Jersey killing and has not been charged in any cases in New Mexico.
Public defender Frank Unger challenged probable cause for the New Jersey murder charge, arguing that Lannon entered Dabkowski’s home in East Greenwich Township with permission and that the acts that followed amounted, at worst, to passion provocation manslaughter, NJ.com reported.
Unger alleged that Lannon had been abused and went to the home to retrieve photos because he didn't want anyone "to have control over me any longer."
Dabkowski mentored Lannon and his twin brother through a Big Brothers program in the 1980s, NJ.com reported. Lannon told investigators that Dabkowski had sexually abused him as a child and that he went to the man's home to retrieve sexually explicit photos of the two of them together.
Unger said that Dabkowski had "documented those sexual assaults, those rapes, by taking pictures of himself with Mr. Lannon in sexually compromised positions."
Unger said Lannon retrieved two hammers from Dabkowski’s garage and gave them to the victim, saying, "You’re going to need these. I don’t want to hurt you."
"I would suggest that this fact alone illustrates this was not purposeful murder. He did not even bring a weapon to the home," he said, further alleging that Dabkowski attacked his client and was then killed.
Unger also challenged prosecutors' comments on the New Mexico murders, saying Lannon hadn't been charged in those cases.
New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary Beth Kramer told prosecutors to confine their presentation to information relevant to the New Jersey case but allowed limited references to the New Mexico cases.
Gutierrez said that the New Mexico victims had been lured to a home and argued that the idea of Lannon having been invited into Dabkowski's home "should be looked at through the lens of at least three prior incidents in New Mexico."
"Those individuals, self-admittedly, were lured into the residence and subsequently murdered," he said.
Unger argued for pretrial release, saying his client has no prior convictions and is an Army veteran with an honorable discharge.
Although born in Massachusetts, Lannon spent most of his early years in Gloucester County before he was deployed to Germany, and he has family in southern New Jersey, including his mother and sister, and could stay locally on electronic monitoring if released, Unger said.
Gutierrez said Lannon adopted an assumed name to avoid detection when he returned to the East Coast and was arrested in New Mexico several weeks ago for failure to appear and spent a week in jail.
Gutierrez alleged that Lannon had admitted to dismemberment of victims and efforts to conceal evidence and "is a significant danger to the community, based on those statements."
The judge agreed and ordered Lannon to remain behind bars.