December 4, 1980
Cape May County, New Jersey
Josephine Trombetta (29) is tortured for 6 hours before being driven to a remote location and killed
On the evening of December 4, Trombetta (29) visited her former boyfriend, Curtis Smith, at his uncle’s home. Accompanying Smith were his mother (Frances (Smith) Camp), his stepfather (Leroy Camp), his uncle (Jack Gaskill), and three women (Ann Nealis, Katherine Smith, and Alberta Wescott). According to authorities, Trombetta was invited to the home to confront her regarding rumors she had allegedly been circulating claiming Smith had impregnated her.
For six hours between December 4 and 5, Trombetta was subjected to humiliation and torture, including being stripped naked, having her hair shaved off, being forced to sign over the title of her car, having her breasts submerged in boiling water, being kicked and beaten, being painted with black spray paint, and being forced to engage in sex acts with a dog. During the assault, Smith punched Trombetta in the head hard enough to break his own knuckle.
Once the torture was over, the group assisted Trombetta in getting dressed and told her they were taking her to a bus station. The men put Trombetta in Gaskill’s car and loaded shovels into the car’s trunk. At this point, according to Gaskill, it was not outright stated Trombetta was to be killed but it was heavily implied.
According to Gaskill, he fell asleep during the ride while Smith and Camp drove Trombetta to a remote location. According to Smith, he stabbed Trombetta repeatedly and sliced her throat three times. He also testified he stabbed Trombetta in the chest after she made “gurgling sounds” while being dragged to her shallow grave.
Six of the seven people involved were arrested on January 2 and 3, 1981, based upon the fact Trombetta was last seen leaving Gaskill’s house on the day of her disappearance. At least one suspect quickly confessed to the torture, though it was not revealed she had been murdered until her frozen body’s discovery on January 10. The seventh person, Katherine Smith, surrendered herself later, but was not charged with any crimes relating to Trombetta’s kidnapping, assault, or murder.
Gaskill — who pleaded guilty and testified Smith and Camp were the ones to murder and bury Trombetta — was sentenced to 27 years in prison. Smith was sentenced to life imprisonment, and is currently still incarcerated. Camp was also sentenced to life; he died in prison in 2011. Nealis and Frances Camp pleaded guilty to kidnapping, aggravated assault, and robbery, and were sentenced to 22 and 25 years in prison respectively. Wescott pleaded guilty to the same three charges as the other female defendants, as well as sexual assault. She was sentenced to 22 years.
Campbell, Al. “Appellate Court Denies Smith’s Petitions For Part in Ex-Girlfriend’s 1980 Slaying.” Cape May County Herald. May 5, 2015. Accessed: December 4, 2019. https://www.capemaycountyherald.com/news/crime/article_2d10c7d4-5857-53c9-b13d-9ccb8e2e99f9.html
“Two are sentenced in murder case.” The Millville Daily. February 26, 1982
Muldoon, Tony. “Man, 21, gets life sentence in torture slaying of woman.” Courier-Post [Camden, New Jersey]. February 24, 1982
Barlas, Thomas. “Killer in 1980 Cape torture case denied appeal.” The Press of Atlantic City. May 2, 2015. Accessed: December 4, 2019. https://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/breaking/killer-in-cape-torture-case-denied-appeal/article_a6aab146-f026-11e4-9020-a3a348fb55bb.html
“Man gets life term in killing.” Asbury Park Press. December 22, 1981
“Autopsy conducted on woman sex victim.” Asbury Park Press. January 14, 1981
“Man Uncovers Frozen Body.” The Millville Daily. January 13, 1981
“6 held on sex charges.” The Herald-News [Passaic, New Jersey]. January 7, 1981 (image source, via newspapers.com)