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Office of Public Information (609) 882-2000
A/Capt. Frank Davis - ext. 6516
SFC Stephen Jones - ext. 6513
SFC Julian Castellanos - ext. 6515
Sgt. Brian Polite - ext. 6514

December 22, 2010


Father and Son Charged in Desecration of Body
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Washington Township, Burlington County, N.J. – New Jersey State Police detectives have charged a father and son with desecration of human remains in connection with a body found in the Wharton State Forest.  Brandon Strater, 24, of Daytona Beach, Florida, and his father, Lee Strater, 55, of Sewell, New Jersey are both in jail in connection with the burial of Joseph Butterworth, 29, of Haddon Heights, New Jersey. 

Butterworth was reported missing on July 21, 2008, and was last seen with Brandon Strater on the 18th.  Haddon Heights police originally investigated the case with members of the State Police Missing Persons Unit.  In October of 2008, Butterworth’s car was found abandoned in the woods about three miles from where his body was eventually found.

On Saturday, December 11th, a hunter found several bones while walking through the woods near Route 542 in Washington Township, Burlington County.  He took those bones to his Bass River Township home, where upon further examination, the hunter wondered if they might be human.  He called the State Police, and troopers from Tuckerton Barracks had forensic anthropologist Donna Fontana view the bones.  She confirmed that they were human. 

The hunter then led authorities to the spot where he found the bones.  State Police detectives and State Park Police excavated the site and uncovered the rest of the remains, which were later identified through dental comparison as Joseph Butterworth. 

Troopers with the Major Crimes Unit and Troop C Criminal Investigations Office reviewed prior police information and conducted numerous interviews over an intensive week of investigation.  Evidence led them to Brandon Strater, who had been interviewed during the initial missing persons case.  Additional information pointed to Brandon’s father, Lee, as having a substantial role in the improper burial of Butterworth’s body.  At this point, neither man has been charged in the death of the victim.  It is currently unclear how Butterworth died, and this investigation remains open and active.
Yesterday, December 21st, State Police detectives, working with Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor James Ronca of the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, charged both men with Desecration of Human Remains (second degree) and Hindering Apprehension (third degree).  Lee Strater was lodged in Burlington County Jail in default of $25,000 full cash bail.  He was released on bail this morning.

The U.S. Marshal’s Service located Brandon Strater in Daytona Beach yesterday evening, where he has been living.  He is currently lodged in Volusia County Jail, where he is pending extradition proceedings. 

The disclaimer: Criminal charges are merely accusations.  Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Second-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison and a fine of $150,000.  Third-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 5 years in state prison and a criminal fine of $15,000.

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Lee Strater Brandon Strater Joseph Butterworth

Lee Strater

Brandon Strater

Joseph Butterworth


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