NJ Man Accused of Stabbing a Mother, Child to Death Then Setting Home on Fire Indicted

An Egg Harbor City man was indicted today for murder and arson in connection with the 2014 killing in Egg Harbor City of the mother and child with whom he cohabited, Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain announced today.

This afternoon, an Atlantic County Grand Jury indicted Joseph F. Palmer 3rd, 39, of 214 Washington Avenue, Egg Harbor City for two counts of murder—crimes of the 1st degree, one count of aggravated arson—a 2nd degree crime, and two 3rd degree counts of possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose (a knife, and a hammer or other blunt force instrument), for the murders of Michelle (Heist) Pabst, 38, and her son Gavin Pabst, age 7, both of whom lived with Palmer.

At 8:11 a.m. on Wednesday, November 12, 2014, Egg Harbor City Police and firefighters from the Egg Harbor City Volunteer Fire Department and the South Egg Harbor Volunteer Fire Company responded to a 9-1-1 report of a fire at 214 Washington Avenue, Egg Harbor City.

Joseph F. Palmer 3rd was found outside the residence. Palmer was treated for injuries and transported by AtlantiCare ambulance personnel and paramedics to the AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center—City Division.

The fire was extinguished, and the bodies of the two victims were discovered inside the home by emergency responders.

An autopsy performed on November 13, 2014 by Dr. Ian Hood of the New Jersey State Medical Examiner’s Office determined both deaths to be homicides, the cause of the mother’s death multiple sharp and blunt force injuries, and the cause of the child’s death multiple stab wounds.

On 12:30 p.m., on November 14, 2014, Detectives of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit arrested Palmer as he was being discharged from the hospital. Palmer was charged at the time with the two murders and aggravated arson, for setting fire to the residence in which lay the bodies of Michelle (Heist) Pabst and Gavin Pabst, with the purpose of destroying it.

Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Mark H. Sandson set bail at $2,000,000 full cash. 

Palmer was lodged in the Atlantic County Justice Facility in lieu of bail, where he remains, pending trial.