MAYS LANDING – An Egg Harbor City man pled guilty today to murder and aggravated manslaughter in connection with the 2014 killings in Egg Harbor City of the mother and child with whom he cohabited, Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain announced today.
Today, January 27, 2016, Joseph F. Palmer 3rd, 39, of Egg Harbor City, pled guilty before Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Bernard E. DeLury to aggravated manslaughter, in connection with the killing in November 2014 of the woman with whom he lived, and to murder, for the death of her 7-year-old child.
At 8:11 a.m. on Wednesday, November 12, 2014, Egg Harbor City Police and firefighters from the Egg Harbor City Volunteer Fire Department and the South Egg Harbor Volunteer Fire Company responded to a 9-1-1 report of a fire at 214 Washington Avenue, Egg Harbor City.
Joseph F. Palmer 3rd, of that address, was found outside the residence. He was treated for injuries and transported by AtlantiCare ambulance personnel and paramedics to the AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center—City Division.
The fire was extinguished, and the bodies of two victims were found inside the home: Michelle (Heist) Pabst, 38, and her son Gavin Pabst, 7, both of whom lived there with Palmer.
An autopsy performed on November 13, 2014 by Dr. Ian Hood of the New Jersey State Medical Examiner’s Office determined both deaths to be homicides, the cause of the mother’s death multiple sharp and blunt force injuries, and the cause of the child’s death multiple stab wounds.
On 12:30 p.m., on November 14, 2014, Detectives of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit arrested Palmer as he was being discharged from the hospital.
Palmer was charged at the time with the two murders and aggravated arson, for setting fire to the residence in which lay the bodies of Michelle (Heist) Pabst and Gavin Pabst, with the purpose to destroy the residence.
The arrest was the result of an around-the-clock investigation by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office and Egg Harbor City Police Department, with assistance from the Mullica, Hamilton Township, and Atlantic City Police Departments, the Atlantic County Office of the Fire Marshal, and New Jersey State Arson K-9 Fire Investigation Unit.
Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Mark H. Sandson set bail at $2,000,000 full cash. Palmer was lodged in the Atlantic County Justice Facility in lieu of bail, where he has remained.
On July 1, 2015, an Atlantic County Grand Jury indicted Palmer for two counts of murder—crimes of the 1st degree, one count of aggravated arson—a 2nd degree crime, and two 3rd degree counts of possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose (a knife, and a hammer or other blunt force instrument).
In accordance with a negotiated plea agreement, Palmer is subject to a sentence of incarceration in New Jersey State Prison for 30 years—must serve all 30—for the murder of Gavin Pabst, and a term of 25 years in prison—must serve 85% of the sentence per the No Early Release Act (NERA)—for the killing of Michelle (Heist) Pabst. Per the plea agreement, the sentences are to be served consecutively, making Palmer eligible for parole after 511⁄4 years in prison.
Palmer is scheduled to be sentenced on March 4, 2016. Assistant Prosecutor John Flammer represents the State in the matter.
Anyone with information involving serious crimes is asked to call the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office at 609-909-7800 or go to the Prosecutor’s Office Web site at http://www.acpo.org/tips.html and provide information by filling out the form anonymously on the Submit a Tip page.
People can also call Crime Stoppers at 609-652-1234 or 1-800-658-8477 (TIPS) or visit the Crime Stoppers Website at http://www.crimestoppersatlantic.com/. Crime Stoppers offers cash rewards for information leading to the arrest and indictment of those who commit crimes in Atlantic County.