Justina Morley, a fifteen-year-old girl, took part in the brutal murder of another teenager named Jason Sweeney. As per the investigation carried out by Court, Sweeney, the victim, was lured by Morley and he took him to a remote place with a promise to have sex. Whereas, he was killed fatally by Nicholas Cola, Edward Batzig Jr. and Domenic. As per police, Sweeney was attached by the group of three for being paid. Morley was sentenced to prison for seventeen and a half to thirty-five years. Nicholas Cola, Edward Batzig and Domenic were also life sentences.
The murder of Jason Sweeney
Sweeney left his education and joined his father business as a building contractor in Philadelphia. He met a girl of his life, Justina Morley, 15 years old. Both of them had their first date on a pleasant Friday evening on May 30, 2003. Unrevealed to Sweeney, Morley was engaged in sexual relations with 2 other teens named Nicholas Coia and Edward Batzig. Junior Batzig was a close friend of Jason Sweeney since school time. Nicholas Coia and his brother were also Sweeney’s friends, but Nicholas’s brother left the friendship.
Justina Morley lured Sweeney to the trails with a promise to have sex. The trail is a wooded area of Fishtown near the Delaware River. Coia brothers and Batzig were already waiting there for Jason Sweeney. Batzig initiated the blow by hitting Sweeny in the head three or four times. Coia brothers and Batzig then punched and pounded Sweeney with a hammer and a rock on his face until he died.
Batzig, during the investigation, shared with the detective that how he pounded Jason Sweeney face with a hatchet. Batzig shared that Jason was begging for life but we kept on hitting him. He added that Sweeney looked at him and begged to stop beating him as he is bleeding but Batzig hit him with an axe. At last, they dropped a boulder on the right side of Sweeney’s head, which resulted in crushing his head. The only bone of his body that was damaged was his left cheekbone. Sweeney’s body was identified by a hand-cut that he got during construction work as his body was stabbed so hard making it difficult to recognize.
The assailants also stole the cash Sweeney has earned from his contractor work that was around $500. Before leaving the crime area, Batzig, Morley and Coia split the money among each other and celebrated the success of their plan by sharing a group hug. They spent the money on buying illegal drugs including marijuana, Xanax and heroin, and jewellery. They also partied till late that night.
During a court hearing, Domenic Coia confessed that they were involved in plotting and executing Sweeney’s murder. As per police reports, they were planning Jason Sweeney’s murder for a long. They also listened to “Helter Skelter” a Beatles song for around forty times, to plan something parallel to the Manson family murder. Joshua Staab, Domenic Coia’s friend, stated that the assailant’s group used Justina Morley as bait for planning Sweeney’s murder. He added that Batzig was very well aware that Sweeney will be receiving his paycheck on the same day. When the prosecutor asked Staab about the demeanour of the teens after killing Sweeney, he shared that they were happy.
All four teens involved in the murder were drug addicts but they were not high while executing the murder. When the detective asked Coia about whether they were drugged when they killed Sweeney, so Coia denied that they were not drugged but sober. A forensic psychologist and detective who was involved in the investigation opined that the primary motivation behind the murder was stealing the money, bitterness and jealousy from Sweeney’s success.
Domenic Coia, in his narration, stated he got scared when Batzig started hitting Sweeney and participated when he became frightened that his brother will be caught. He also denied the fact that he was sober while executing the murder and said that he prevented the others from killing Morley as they were fearful that she might testify. He also denied that he was involved in planning the murder.
Justina Morley defended that she is smoking weed since she was only 10 years old and soon started snorting cocaine and taking prescription pills. April Frederick, the mother of Morley, stated that her daughter since the age of 10 years is cutting her wrists and self-mutilation. She was also hospitalized in 2002 for threatening suicide. Her mother added that she was admitted to Friends Hospital once for cutting her knees, thighs and wrists, taking the prescription pill and also penning down a suicide poem on her room’s door. Morley forced her mother to take her out of the hospital otherwise she will kill herself and her mother not obeying the advice of the hospital took her out of the hospital. A public school expelled Morley when she was in eighth grade and she then repeated it at a private school in Fishtown.
The psychiatrist William Russell, hired by the defence team, claimed that to get a self-worth validation, Morley was involved in sexual activities at a young age. Morley declared that she had sexual activity with Batzig and Nicholas Coia in return for heroin, a few days before Sweeney’s murder.
Supreme Court Trial
The attorney of Justina Morley shared that the girl is suffering from depression, substance abuse and Morley attempted suicide for getting her in a juvenile trial. The assistant district attorney argued that Morley played an important role in planning the murder and she had also gone through treatment before. Even if trying in a juvenile court trial, she will be free from the supervision of court when she will reach the age of 21 years. The judge agreed to the prosecution verdict and ordered them to treat her as an adult for Sweeney’s murder. Morley was charged with third-degree murder and was sentenced to prison for seventeen and a half to thirty-five years. Morley was released from jail in December 2020 and is currently paroled.
In 2004, Batzig, Nicholas Coia and Brother Domenic Coia plead guilty for attempting a first-degree murder, robbery, keeping crime instrument and conspiracy. Batzig and Coia brother received a mandatory sentence for life without a prole. Batzig, Nicholas Coia and Domenic Coia are imprisoned today.