Memorial to 3-year-old removed ahead of father's murder trial due to planned jury outing

A memorial to a 3-year-old found dead in a wooded park in New Jersey was removed over the weekend ahead of his father's murder trial set to begin this week.

The shrine on a tree that included images of Brendan Creato and stuffed animals, candles, ribbons and a small Christmas stocking was removed over the weekend before a jury is chosen starting Tuesday in David Creato Jr.'s trial, the Courier-Post reported.

Investigators say the 23-year-old Haddon Township man killed the boy in October 2015 because he was an impediment to his relationship with a teenage girlfriend and then reported him missing. He has pleaded not guilty to murder and child endangerment charges and says that the boy wandered away from home on his own.

The jury is expected to visit the park where the boy's body was found in a stream. Creato's attorney expressed concern over the possible impact of the memorial on the jury.

Assistant Camden County prosecutor Christine Shah said at a pretrial hearing last week that a walk to the site would disprove Creato's claim that the boy wandered away. She said that the boy's socks were clean and his family members described him as being afraid of the dark. His father said he left home before dawn.

Judge John Kelley has given tentative approval for the walk through the park, pending a final review of logistics.

Jury selection is set to begin Tuesday.

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