Guilty Plea In Crime Spree And Fake Bomb At School

Posted: August 18, 1998

CAMDEN — A 19-year-old Lindenwold man admitted yesterday that he had participated in a six-day crime spree that culminated in placing a fake bomb on the roof of Overbrook Senior High School last winter.

In Superior Court, Kevin Matthews said he and his friends stole four cars from a used-car dealership, burned three of them, and used a pipe bomb to blow up a car in Gloucester Township before calling in a bomb threat at the school on Feb. 17.

Matthews pleaded guilty to aggravated arson, conspiracy to commit aggravated arson, unlawful possession of a pipe bomb, and creating a false public alarm.

The other defendants in the case have already pleaded guilty. A varying number of people participated in the incidents. All together, up to seven people were prosecuted.

Under the plea agreement, Matthews is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 2 to five years in state prison, said Matthew Portella, Matthews' defense attorney. The agreement also requires Matthews to help pay restitution of more than $26,000 for property damage caused by the car thefts and pipe bomb.

``This agreement is a fair disposition,'' said Assistant Camden County Prosecutor Mindy Mellets. ``It sends a message that it's not a joke to call in bomb threats or set cars on fire. They're lucky nobody was hurt.''

Matthews, who has been jailed since March 10, was being held on $1,000 cash bail set by Judge Linda Rosenzweig yesterday.

The crime spree began Feb. 12, when Matthews and his friends put a pipe bomb on top of a car in Winslow and detonated it, Mellets said. Over the next two days, they stole four cars from Royce Auto Sales in Runnemede and burned three of them in Gibbsboro when the cars got caught in the mud.

During yesterday's hearing, Matthews acknowledged handing the gas can to his codefendant, David Ottaviano, 18, of Lindenwold, to set the cars on fire.

Matthews also said he served as a lookout Feb. 17 when his friends placed the fake bomb on top of the high school and phoned in a bomb threat. School officials immediately evacuated 1,700 students, and Camden County's bomb squad discovered a device designed to look like a bomb on the school's roof. It was the most serious of the 25 bomb threats Overbrook received last school year.

In July, Ottaviano was sentenced to five years in state prison under a plea agreement similar to Matthews'.

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