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1979: Dark side of the city
By PAUL MICKLE / The Trentonian
The torture and murder of socialite Emma Jane Stockton in 1979 is one reason so many suburbanites view Trenton as a breeding ground for criminal depravity.

Stockton was a blueblood heiress who had traveled through Europe and was working for the Greater Trenton Symphony when she bought a house in fashionable Mill Hill. She moved in on Sept. 7, 1979.

Soon after, an Army deserter from Trenton who had been abandoned as a baby, Keith Alford, started watching the comings and goings of Stockton from a bench in Mill Hill Park, within view of her house on Mercer Street.

On the evening of Nov. 11, Alford, 24, climbed to the second floor of the stately old rowhouse, broke a window and climbed in. He found Stockton, 37, alone and raped her.

Less than a month later, at about sundown on Dec. 7, Alford got into the house the same way and this time killed Stockton. Police said he tied her to a bed, burned her face and body with flaming newspapers, pushed large splinters of wood into her thighs and stabbed her 40 times before crushing her throat and chest.

Shortly before 8 p.m. that evening, a friend arrived to escort Stockton to a charity ball for the Trenton Boys' Club. He got no answer, left to attend the party for a while and returned at about 9 p.m.

When no one answered then, a neighbor also got concerned and raised a ladder and climbed into the house through a window that was already broken because Alford had smashed it getting in a few hours earlier.

After the find, the gruesome torture slaying of Emma Jane Stockton, a descendant of Declaration of Independence signer Richard Stockton, was on the front page of The Trentonian for the next nine days straight.

It came out that Stockton had been tortured with crocheting needles and a corkscrew; that she had been the victim of rape by a cat burglar mentioned in the newspapers Nov. 12; that she had a few strange friends in New York and New Hope that cops wanted to talk to; that she was interested in the occult; that cops found a sketch showing a tied-down person on her desk at work.

With the killer still on the loose, details about the crime only added to the fear among residents of Mill Hill, especially single women. Then there were all the suburbanites already afraid to set foot in the city.

With the arrest of Alford two weeks after the slaying, the worst fears of the suburbanite and Chamber-of-Commerce type were confirmed: Civilized Stockton, who moved into the city to help create a renaissance, had been savaged by one of its neglected native sons.

Alford was arrested on Dec. 20 when Officer John Collins of the Hopewell Township police spotted him outside the old Ewing Bazaar driving the 1974 Dodge Dart of a 64-year-old Hamilton widow and grandmother, Anna May Chicaleski, who had been found murdered in her Bromley home the day before.

Trenton detectives James Taylor and Henry Orlowski and Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Paul O'Gara started looking at Alford as a suspect in the Stockton murder soon after Collins scooped him up.

In 40 days, O'Gara had three voluminous sets of evidence linking Alford to the Chicaleski murder as well as the first rape of Stockton and her separate murder by torture. Included were Alford fingerprints lifted from Stockton's home after the November rape and -- in blood -- the murder on Pearl Harbor Day.

In October 1980, a jury bused in from Somerset County took only 75 minutes to convict Alford of murdering Chicaleski, rejecting his explanation about finding the widow's Dodge idling along a Trenton street and borrowing it to go shopping.

In April 1981, another jury rejected Alford's assertion that detectives and even one of his own lawyers railroaded him and, after three hours of deliberation, found him guilty of the Stockton slaying.

Alford was sentenced to life in prison for both the Chicaleski and Stockton murders. A resident of Trenton's state prison to this day, Alford won't be eligible for parole until the year 2031, when he's 76.

There was no chance of Alford being given a death sentence for the two murders and his other offenses. The U.S. Supreme Court had struck down the death penalty in 1972 and it would be 1982 before New Jersey had a new execution law back on the books.

In public debate, those in favor of reinstating the death penalty often brought up repeatedly violent criminals like Alford and crimes like the Stockton and Chicaleski murders. Legislators got the message, as did the judges who later ruled Jersey's capital punishment law constitutional.

So the death penalty was on the books in 1992, the next time a naive out-of-towner came to Trenton and encountered a depraved son of the city.

Ambrose Harris, only months after finishing a 14-year prison stint, grabbed 22-year-old Bucks County artist Kristin Huggins as she showed up at a Trenton club to paint a mural, her first professional job.

By then, the divisive sociological chords struck by the Stockton murder were about finished reverberating. But in raping and killing suburbanite Huggins, Harris again struck the worst kind of fear of the city into the hearts of outsiders.

It was just like the Stockton case a generation earlier: A hapless innocent from the outside snatched up suddenly by an urban monster from a fractured family.

The only difference: Ambrose Harris is now on death row in the same Trenton prison as lifer Keith Alford.