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Three Morris County Sheriff’s Office Superior Officers With 75 Years of Collective Experience Retire

Three Morris County Sheriff’s Office superior officers, two of whom helped probe some of the county’s most heinous or baffling crimes, retired as of July 31 with 75 years of experience between them.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon with Sheriff's Office Chief Edward Crooker, who retired July 31, 2019, after 25 years of service.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon with Sheriff’s Office Chief Edward Crooker, who retired July 31, 2019, after 25 years of service.

The retirees, Sheriff’s Office Chief Edward Crooker, Detective Captain Bruce Dunn and Detective Lieutenant Philip DiGavero, all joined the Morris County Sheriff’s Office on July 18, 1994, as Corrections Officers who worked in the Correctional Facility and several years later transferred to the Bureau of Law Enforcement.

Chief Crooker spent nearly his entire career, 19 years, in the Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Unit. Detective Captain Dunn worked in the Protective Services Division and for many years in CSI, the unit that is responsible for collecting and analyzing evidence amassed from crimes throughout Morris County’s 39 municipalities.

Detective Lieutenant DiGavero is credited with overseeing the Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit at one time, helping to electronically modernize evidence storage, and arranging with the Rockaway-based Prevention Is Key program (PIK) to have expired medication drop-off boxes at police departments that are collected, inventoried and destroyed by the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Evidence Unit.

Morris County Sheriff's Office Detective Captain Bruce Dunn at his retirement party on July 31, 2019, with Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon.
Morris County Sheriff’s Office Detective Captain Bruce Dunn at his retirement party on July 31, 2019, with Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon.

“These three Morris County Sheriff’s Office superior officers have served the county and the office with class and distinction by pouring their minds, hearts and souls into investigations and serving the public with integrity.  I am proud to know them and to have worked beside them, and I wish them the best in the years ahead,” Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon said.

The three retirees all worked in the now-demolished Morris County jail that was replaced by a new facility that opened in Morris Township in 2000. Chief Crooker recalled how he also worked in the 1990s as a CSI detective in a dilapidated building on Washington Street in Morristown and then in another location before a state-of-the-art crime lab that today is the base of operations for CSI was opened in 2013.

Morris County Sheriff's Office Detective Lieutenant Philip DiGavero, who retired after 25 years of service on July 31, 2019, with Sheriff James M. Gannon.
Morris County Sheriff’s Office Detective Lieutenant Philip DiGavero, who retired after 25 years of service on July 31, 2019, with Sheriff James M. Gannon.

Both Detective Captain Dunn and Chief Crooker worked in CSI on the investigation and successful prosecution of the killer of 10-year-old Walter Contreras Valenzuela in Morristown in May 2001.  Chief Crooker matched a garden cultivator found near the child’s body to wounds on his head while Detective Captain Dunn located multiple items of evidence at the crime scene that gave detectives insight into the child’s final moments.

A friend of the Valenzuela family wrote a moving letter in 2008 that praised then-Sergeant Dunn’s involvement in the probe and trial.

“I feel his work was phenomenal and done in such a professional manner that his investigation was never questioned. I cannot express in words how important he is to the Valenzuela family and those that love them.  Without his skills we know that perhaps there may have been a different outcome in the trial.  We are eternally grateful to him and feel very blessed to know that we are under the protection of the very competent Morris County Sheriff’s Department,” the friend wrote.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and Bureau of Law Enforcement Undersheriff Mark Spitzer look on as Sheriff's Office Chief Edward Crooker and Sheriff's Office Detective Captain Bruce Dunn wish each other happy retirements on July 31, 2019, after 25 years of service.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and Bureau of Law Enforcement Undersheriff Mark Spitzer look on as Sheriff’s Office Chief Edward Crooker and Sheriff’s Office Detective Captain Bruce Dunn wish each other happy retirements on July 31, 2019, after 25 years of service.

Detective Captain Dunn also had the ingenious idea of lifting fingerprints from a decayed body found in 2002 that involved soaking the skin in glycerol for 24 hours and placing the skin over a detective’s fingers and rolling for prints.  The prints of the deceased woman were on file in the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which led to her identification.

“I’m very lucky to have had a good career,” Detective Captain Dunn said.

Besides cases of bank robberies, fatal crashes, robberies and other crimes, both Detective Captain Dunn and Chief Crooker worked on the high-profile 2002 double murders of Jeffrey Eresman and Erik Rewoldt at the Funcoland video game store in Roxbury, and assisted federal officials in executing search warrants after the largest mass murder through acts of terrorism in America on Sept. 11, 2001.

Chief Crooker worked on multiple major crimes, including the killing of Father Edward Hinds in 2009 in Chatham Borough, but he has never forgotten a simple event that ended well. He was called out to process the scene of what a homeowner thought was a burglary but Chief Crooker, then a CSI detective, was able to find the woman’s missing ring under a bed.

Chief Crooker thanked Sheriff James Gannon for his responsiveness and support of officers and detectives.

“The resources he gives us are second to none,” said Chief Crooker.

Detective Lieutenant DiGavero, who also worked in the Sheriff’s Office Warrants Section and Protective Services Division which oversees security at the Morris County courthouse, said he is honored to have worked with many exceptional people.

He said he is proud of helping to organize the storage of evidence from crime scenes, which is managed electronically through a program called BEAST, for Bar-Coded Evidence Analysis Statistical Tracking.

“I’ll miss everybody.  It’s been a real honor,” Detective Lieutenant DiGavero said.

 

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and Two Sheriff’s Officers Are Among the Special Guests at Prayerfest 2019 at Christ Church in Rockaway Township

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and two Sheriff’s Officers were among the special community guests who were blessed onstage and introduced to 2,300 worshippers gathered at Christ Church in Rockaway Township on Friday, July 26, for its powerful, one-day Prayerfest 2019.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, standing beside uniformed Sheriff's Officers Travis Somerville and Kayla Santos, introduces himself as a guest of Christ Church's Prayerfest 2019 on July 26.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, standing beside uniformed Sheriff’s Officers Travis Somerville and Kayla Santos, introduces himself as a guest of Christ Church’s Prayerfest 2019 on July 26.

Worshippers representing more than 70 nationalities gathered at the non-denominational Christ Church on Green Pond Road for a day of prayer, music, singing, healing and unburdening themselves of past sins.

Sheriff Gannon, Sheriff’s Officers Kayla Santos and Travis Somerville joined Rockaway Township Mayor Michael Puzio, Rockaway Township Police Chief Martin McParland, Dover Mayor James Dodd, Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Supervisor Spence Osaigbovo and other civic leaders as special guests of the Prayerfest.

Christ Church Lead Pastor, the Reverend Dr. David Ireland, called the guests onstage in the church sanctuary and had them introduce themselves individually to the worshippers during a portion of the Prayerfest labeled “A Call To Our Community.”

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and Sheriff's Officers Kayla Santos and Travis Somerville were among the special community guests at Prayerfest 2019 hosted by Christ Church in Rockaway Township on July 26.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and Sheriff’s Officers Kayla Santos and Travis Somerville were among the special community guests at Prayerfest 2019 hosted by Christ Church in Rockaway Township on July 26.

Sheriff Gannon told church officials that his role is a peacekeeping one and all 317 churches and houses of worship in Morris County, regardless of the denomination, are sacred and protected through directed patrols conducted by his office and local police.

“I am honored to be recognized so graciously by Christ Church, a valuable part of the community that is always generous when others are in need and fills the spiritual needs of thousands of people in northwest New Jersey,” Sheriff Gannon said.

Christ Church, with nearly 9,000 congregants between its locations in Rockaway Township and Montclair, has brought people together for a festival of prayer for the past five years in the township.

 

Morris County Public Safety Youth Academy Cadets Train With Morris County’s Bravest Crisis Responders

Participants of the 2019 Morris County Public Safety Youth Academy on July 23 simulated breaching doors, clearing rooms of hidden gunmen, and carrying injured people to safety – all the real-life duties and threats for which their instructors regularly train.

Morris County Sheriff's Emergency Response Team (SERT) Leader Matt Cilurso, front right, and SERT Member Christian DiGiralomo (left rear) work with Morris County Public Safety Youth Academy Cadets on a simulated active shooter scenario on July 23.
Morris County Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team (SERT) Leader Matt Cilurso, front right, and SERT Member Christian DiGiralomo (left rear) work with Morris County Public Safety Youth Academy Cadets on a simulated active shooter scenario on July 23.

The 34 participants spent part of Tuesday – the second day of the weeklong academy for youths in grades 9 through 12 – in the burn building and other structures at the Morris County Public Safety Training Academy that specifically were built for law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical services responders to practice life-saving skills.

Members of the elite Morris County Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team (SERT), the Morris County Special Operations Group (SOG) and the Morris County Office of Emergency Management partnered to offer academy participants hands-on instruction on how fitness, teamwork and many hours of training give those specialty response teams the ability to respond and serve the public.

Morris County Sheriff's Emergency Response Team Leader Jamie Rae instructs cadets at the 2019 Morris County Public Safety Youth Academy.
Morris County Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team Leader Jamie Rae instructs cadets at the 2019 Morris County Public Safety Youth Academy.

In a building known as the Tower on the Public Safety Training Academy grounds, SERT Team Leader and Sheriff’s Office Corporal Jamie Rae had youths wear night vision binoculars as they prowled pitch-dark rooms for a missing person.

In the burn building – which doubles as a training ground for firefighters and police practicing active shooter scenarios – Morris County Sheriff’s Officer and SERT Team Leader Frank Perez and Bureau of Corrections Corporal and SERT Team Leader Matt Cilurso showed the youth Academy cadets how to effectively work as a team to clear rooms of active shooters.

In a massive firehouse-like structure on the Academy grounds, OEM Director and SOG Commander Jeffrey Paul worked with SERT member and Morris County Park Police Officer Christian DiGiralomo and Morris County Sheriff’s Office Systems Analyst Jane Recktenwald in helping youths navigate a complicated obstacle course that emphasized fitness, speed, clarity of mind, and agility during an emergency.

Morris County Office of Emergency Management Director Jeffrey Paul works with a 2019 Morris County Public Safety Youth Academy Cadet on navigating an obstacle course designed to promote speed, agility, clarity of mind and strength in emergency situations.
Morris County Office of Emergency Management Director Jeffrey Paul works with a 2019 Morris County Public Safety Youth Academy Cadet on navigating an obstacle course designed to promote speed, agility, clarity of mind and strength in emergency situations.

The obstacle course involved youths dragging a sked rescue device bearing a wounded mannequin, moving a heavy tire with a sledge hammer, carrying a Sheriff’s Office SERT ballistic shield while dashing around cones, carrying a second mannequin to safety, completing an eye-hand coordination game within 30 seconds, and then scurrying up a staircase to hoist a fire hose from the ground to the top of the staircase.

Morris Township Police Officer and SERT Member Whitney Burk showed participants how to lift, carry and swing a steel ram to breach a door.  For some, the task was more difficult than it looked.

A 2019 Morris County Public Safety Youth Academy Cadet practices breaching a door with a steel ram.
A 2019 Morris County Public Safety Youth Academy Cadet practices breaching a door with a steel ram.

“The Morris County Public Safety Youth Academy is an outstanding, eye-opening forum for young people to learn whether a career in law enforcement, firefighting, emergency medical services, or emergency management is a path they want to pursue. Beyond that decision, the academy offers a rare glimpse into the hazards these professionals face every day to keep people safe,” Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon said.

The Morris County Public Safety Youth Academy is sponsored by the Board of Freeholders and is free of charge to cadets.  The Academy is a distinctive program that exposes cadets to the myriad facts of the public safety field. Sheriff Gannon will be the keynote speaker at the cadet graduation on Friday, July 26.