Suspect in Natel King Murder Released, Still Faces Trial
Jennifer Mitkus, known as both a vagrant and an alleged prostitute, was arrested in March and charged with making unsworn falsifications to authorities and hindering apprehension. She has been held in county prison ever since her arrest in lieu of $10,000 bail that she could not pay.
However, after serving more than 180 days in jail, Montgomery County Judge William T. Nicholas handed down a ruling Tuesday ordering the immediate release of Mitkus from prison.
Mitkus allegedly lied to investigators shortly after King's disappearance, saying that she had been present at the final photo shoot that preceded King's disappearance.
King was later found dead in a ravine in Whitemarsh, Penn., a suburb 10 miles northwest of Philadelphia. She was last seen alive Feb. 29 walking to a corner bar in Conshohocken, Penn., after completing a bondage film shoot with photographer Anthony Frederick.
The coroner’s office ruled King’s death a homicide, saying she died from multiple stab wounds to the neck and upper body.
Shortly after discovery of King's body, Frederick was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, possession of an instrument of crime, unsworn falsification to authorities and abuse of a corpse. Authorities believed at the time that Frederick has videotaped the killing of King as a snuff film.
Mitkus was also arrested for lying to authorities, claiming that she last saw King by her car outside the studio after the photo shoot had been completed and that she and Frederick left the area before King.
According to the judge's ruling this week, Mitkus' 180-day jail stay has expired and she must be released. The judge ruled that Mitkus could only be imprisoned for up to 180 days without being brought to trial.
Mitkus will still face trial on the charges against her, but according to the judge's ruling, she no longer has to sit in jail.
"Jennifer has been in jail for 180 days and the law says that anyone in prison for 180 days is entitled to have a trial," said Mitkus' attorney Carolyn Carluccio.
On Sept. 21, the trial date for Frederick was postponed and he remains in prison without bail. Frederick's attorney, Daniel Paul-Alva, has asked to be removed from the case.
The Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Barbara Ashcroft said that prosecutors are aiming to combine the trials of Mitkus and Frederick sometime in February 2005.