October 15, 1978
Clayton, New Jersey
The body of 32-year-old Lillian Jester is found
Jester had been reported missing by her boyfriend Rafael King on October 12, a few days before her body’s discovery. She was found in a clearing within a state-operated fish and wildlife area. The cause of death was determined to be a “deep laceration of the throat” but Jester had also been slashed across the throat two times with more shallow cuts. Strangely, the exposed parts of her body — her stomach, ankles, face, and hands — had “unexplained black paint markings” applied with what was believed to be spray paint. Due to these markings, investigators referred to Jester’s death as the “voodoo murder case.” Jester’s autopsy revealed she had likely been killed the day she was reported missing. A 12-inch (30-cm) knife found in the woods near Jester’s body was later identified as the murder weapon.
King was questioned several days after Jester’s body was found, during which time he made a confession which was recorded on audio tape. He was subsequently charged with Jester’s murder.
Prosecutors contended Jester and King had gotten into an argument as they walked through the gaming preserve, during which point Jester threatened to leave King. According to prosecutors, King slashed Jester’s throat in retaliation, dragged her body from her car which was abandoned at the scene, then painted Jester’s body with black paint. A large portion of the case against King relied on his taped confession, and his defense hoped to demonstrate why he may have confessed to a crime despite not being the perpetrator.
While prosecutors sought a first-degree murder conviction in Jester’s killing, the judge ruled out the possibility. Instead, the jury was able to convict King of either second-degree murder or manslaughter, or acquit him of the charges against him. The jury deliberated for 3 days before returning with a verdict. King was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 3-5 years in prison. As he was in the United States on an expired work visa, it is likely King was deported back to his home country of Jamaica upon the completion of his sentence.
The paint on Jester’s body was never explained. However, a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who had moved to the US from Jamaica and specialized in Jamaican customs, stated the marks were not from any customs in his native country, including practices by “voodoo cults,” despite what investigators had initially told the press.
“County Man Gets 3 To 5.” The Millville Daily. June 17, 1980
“Man Guilty In Killing.” The Millville Daily. May 5, 1980”
“Jamaican farmworker guilty of manslaughter.” Courier-Post [Camden, New Jersey]. May 3, 1980
“Vinelander’s Murder Trial Starts.” Vineland Times Journal. April 16, 1980
Hoh, David. “Murder trial begins for Jamaican farmworker.” Courier-Post. April 16, 1980
“Man faces trial in ‘voodoo’ murder case.” The News [Paterson, New Jersey]. April 14, 1980
“Man Indicted In Murder.” Vineland Times Journal. November 3, 1978
Quaranta, James. “Vineland Woman Found Murdered.” Vineland Times Journal. October 17, 1978