Jennifer Moore, an 18-year-old from Harrington Park, New Jersey, was abducted,r aped and murdered on July 25, 2006. Her killer was found and sentenced to 50 years in prison for the crime, along with his accomplice who was sentenced to 30 years.
BACKGROUND AND THE CRIME
Jennifer had graduated from Saddle River Day School just a few months earlier in May of 2006. There, she was the captain of the girls's soccer team. She planned to attend the University of Hartford to study nursing.
The night Jennifer disappeared, she and a friend had driven into New York City to go out clubbing and drinking. Though Jennifer was underage, she had used a fake ID to get into the bars.
Jennifer's friend parked the car outside of the nightclub. They moved the car, but while they were inside the next bar, the car was ticketed and eventually towed to an impound lot. The girls went to the impound lot to get the car, where the attendants refused to surrender it. Jennifer's friend collapsed from drinking too much alcohol, and an ambulance was called. Having been drinking underage, Jennifer left, walking away unnoticed.
When the friend woke up, she was alone in an ambulance. She tried to contact Jennifer, but to no avail. Reportedly during that time, Jennifer made a frantic phone call to her boyfriend, telling him that there was a guy following her who was offering her drugs and would not leave her alone. When she did not come home, she was reported as missing.
But she wasn't "missing" for long. Her body was found in a trash can in West New York, New Jersey. She had been raped and murdered.
THE INVESTIGATION AND LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
Before the body was found, police arrested a 35-year-old New York City man named Draymond Coleman on suspicion of the crime. He had an extensive criminal history. After their interrogation, the New Jersey police found Jennifer's body in a dumpster.
The crime had taken place in a motel in Weehawken, New Jersey. A video of Coleman leading Jennifer through the motel premises was found. They believe that he beat, raped and strangled Jennifer before stuffing her body into a duffel bag. He had tried to remove his DNA from her body by cutting her fingernails and cleaning her body with alcohol.
Coleman was not new to crime, having previous arrests for assaults and selling drugs. Though he was released from prison in 2002, he would spend the next 3 years in and out of detention for violating parole. His last known crime was in January of 2005.
Police also arrested a 20-year-old New Jersey escort named Krystal Riordan for tampering with evidence and hindering the prosecution. She was a prostitute working for her pimp who doubled as her boyfriend, Coleman, and was a frequent flyer at the hotel where the murder took place. The Hudson County Prosecutor concluded that she had participated in the murder as an accomplice.
Coleman appeared in State Superior Court where he faced his victim's mother and sister, whom he glared at as he was led out of the court in shackles. A $2 million cash bail was imposed on him, and he was extradited to New Jersey for his October 2006 trial for murder.
It says that the trial was to begin in October of 2006, but it appears it was repeatedly delayed. Ultimately, in March of 2010, Coleman plead guilty to the murder of Jennifer Moore. His plea landed him 50 years in prison. Riordan plead guilty for her role in the abduction and murder of Jennifer and received 30 years.
The Prosecutor argued for the maximum sentence of 40 years for her, asking the judge to discount the testimony that the defense presented of a rough childhood and upbringing of Riordan, trying to make her seem like a victim, as well. "There is only one victim here, judge, make no mistake about it, her name is Jennifer Moore," he argued, explaining that Riordan's actions were to blame for the fact that Jennifer's life was cut short. The judge, after the 30 year sentence was handed down, told Riordan that though she would spend her 20s through 40s behind bars, she would walk free one day, something Jennifer would never get to do.
Jennifer's mother, who attended the sentencing hearing for Riordan, argued that someone who could abuse the trust of a young girl and allow such brutality in her presence and to cover it up meant she was dangerous, and should not be a part of society.
VICTIM BLAMING AND OTHER REACTIONS
Though the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of Draymond Coleman and Krystal Riordan, some people argued that some slice of the blame should fall on Jennifer, herself. Some people felt that the way that she was dressed, and how she was drinking a lot, and illegally, opened herself up to the potential for danger. Jeffery Page wrote in an article, "some postings on blog sites and Internet message boards hint through some crazy logic that Moore was somehow culpable. You've heard this garbage before: They get drunk, they dress provocatively, so what do they expect? The more obscene version includes the words 'asking for it'."
One of those people he was talking about was columnist Michelle Malkin, who said that "at some point these young women have to take responsibility for putting themselves in vulnerable positions."
Here's what I wish I could say: the blame doesn't rest on the victim, but squarely on the perpetrator. Thus, we shouldn't say "ladies, wear more modest clothing and don't drink alcohol", we should say "hey, men, stop raping and murdering women". But I can't. Because we know men aren't raping women and thinking they're doing the right thing. They know it is wrong. So appealing to them, targeting them and asking them to stop is useless.
And so, we have to appeal to the women. As terrible as it is, we have to ask women to change the way they live and act and dress to avoid crimes happening to them. Regardless of their choices, it is 100% not their fault what happens to them. But, I don't think it is wrong to say, "hey ladies. You can do whatever you want. But, men are more likely to take advantage of you if you're drunk, so ensure you are being careful on a night out by doing X, Y, and Z." It is why we send our locations to friends when meeting with guys from dating apps, or why we don't walk anywhere alone at night, or why we never leave our drunks unattended or why we do hundreds of the things we do as women. Not because it would be our fault if something happened, but because saying "hey, dudes, stop drugging and raping or killing us" isn't working. So the burden is on us to be more cautious.
All of this to say: The blame doesn't rest on the victim, but squarely on the perpetrator. BUT, the perpetrator isn't going to listen to appeals to get him to stop, so women learn to take precautions against it. But even if she had been warned to watch her drink and stay capacitated and not to walk home alone, if she chooses to ignore those things and something happens, it is still not her fault. Women may bear the burden of taking precautions, but her assault or murder is never, ever, in any way, shape, or form, her fault. Period.
Other reactions included the comparison of Jennifer Moore to other murders. A Spanish language newspaper compared her death to the murder of Imette St. Gullien, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice student who had been killed, allegedly by one of the bouncers at a bar. Like Jennifer, her death related to nightlife, and focused the conversation of their murders around fake IDs, bars, bouncers, and underage drinking.
Another death that was compared to Jennifer's was Chanel Petro-Nixon, who disappeared while walking in Brooklyn in broad daylight while going to apply for a job. This prompted an article saying "it's open season on young girls". Additionally, Laura Garza's disappearance was compared to Jennifer's when she disappeared after leaving a Chelsea nightclub in 2008.
In 2011, the New York Nightlife Association worked with the NYPD after Imette and Jennifer's deaths to update their policies on nightlife safety.
Though the conversations surrounding Jennifer's death focused a lot on nightlife and underage drinking, again, the real problem is that a man decided he wanted to rape and murder someone. Nightlife safety is important, and having protocols and people there to enforce rules, and ensuring women know the precautions they should consider when going out could help to minimize the amount of people who die in such a way, but it will not stop it entirely.
Violence against women is a real problem - one that we have not been able to stop at the source. And so, as women, we understand the things we must do to try to avoid becoming a victim of one of these men. Jennifer Moore went out drinking, underage, and ended up in the city alone. What did she expect? Um, probably not to get abducted, raped, and murdered. She just wanted to have a fun night out. This was not her fault.
Watch your drink. Try to remain in control, or be with someone who can. Walk with someone else, but try to avoid walking outside at night altogether. Share your location with a friend if you're nervous. Take these precautions, if you wish, but remember: regardless of your choices, if something happens, it was not your fault.