Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on May 25, 2023, Donna Jung, 57, of Lehigh Acres, Florida and Helecia Morris, 41, of Brick Township, were found guilty of Endangering the Welfare of a Child in connection with incidents that occurred between April 1, 2015 and January 9, 2016 in Brick Township. After a week-long jury trial before the Honorable Lisa A. Puglisi, J.S.C., the jury concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that Jung and Morris abused and neglected a minor in their care. Jung and Morris are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Puglisi on July 7, 2023, at which time they face up to ten years New Jersey State Prison. Both Morris and Jung were remanded into custody after the jury delivered the guilty verdict. They will both remain in the Ocean County Jail until their sentencing hearing.
On January 9, 2016, Officers from the Brick Township Police Department and representatives from the Division of Child Protection and Permanency responded to a residence on Queen Ann Road in reference to a wellness check on Morris’s biological eight-year old son. Responding Officers found the child locked in his room in abhorrent conditions. The room also reeked of urine. The eight year-old male child and two other minor children were removed from the residence. They were taken to Hackensack Meridian Ocean University Medical Center in Brick Township to be medically evaluated. All three children were subsequently placed in foster care.
An investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victim’s Unit and the Brick Township Police Department revealed that the eight year-old male victim was locked in his room day and night by Morris and Jung. He was not allowed to use the bathroom in the residence and was excluded from socializing with the rest of the family. The room contained no bed, no furniture, no lights and no toys. On January 11, 2016, Detectives executed a court-authorized search warrant on the residence, and Morris and Jung were arrested. Morris and Jung were transported to the Ocean County Jail and subsequently released on bail.
Prosecutor Billhimer commends the diligence and dedication of Senior Assistant Prosecutor Mara Brater who ably and skillfully tried the case on behalf of the State. The Prosecutor likewise extends his gratitude to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Victim Witness Advocacy Unit, Brick Township Police Department and the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, for their combined and collective efforts ultimately resulting in this guilty verdict.