Doing what’s best for all in the face of tragic loss — How rules for reporting potential crimes in newspapers differ from social media’s lack of guidelines

Eight months after the body of a baby was found in a rubbish bin at a home in Kearny, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office still has no answers as to the manner of death, a community remains up in arms about the delays in getting answers and very few details are known about the case.

The baby’s body — he was later named Matthew by his family — has since been released by the northeast Regional Medical Examiner’s Office and he was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington, earlier this year.

This newspaper has emailed or called Jennifer Morrill, the spokeswoman for Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez on a regular basis. Every single time, the response has been the same or similar — the case is still pending the results of the finding of the medical examiner’s office.

Additionally, one emailed response is, verbatim, exactly what was sent in response to a citizen’s similar request for details.

“Thank you for your patience,” Morrill wrote to Observer co-owner Lisa M. Feorenzo and at least one citizen we’re aware of . “We certainly understand the concern particularly when it comes to the death of a child or an infant. However, the investigation has to take its proper course and that is the priority. I am sure you can understand the need of the medical examiner to be thorough and complete.

“Forensics involving infants and children are among the most complex. When we have additional information to release, we will make it available.”

Previously, the responses would say the case is still under investigation, pending findings of the medical examiner.

So this, of course, begs the question — if this is still in the hands of the ME’s office, and if the baby’s been released into the custody of his family — what, therefore, is the delay.

One source with information relating to the case, who cannot be identified since they are unauthorized to speak about the case — says the medical examiner who was handling the baby’s autopsy retired in the middle of it and left the investigation incomplete. We have not been able to officially verify this information.

In the meantime, social media, especially Facebook, has become a cesspool of inuendo, false statements, inaccurate comments and outlandish accusations, most notably that there’s a vast conspiracy to cover up the details of this case.

This simply isn’t true.

“I’ve made calls, I’ve sent emails and it’s always the same thing,” Feorenzo said. “But the reality of the situation is that I am just as frustrated at the snail’s pace this is taking. But we have to remember — this isn’t an ordinary time. We’re still dealing with the effects of a pandemic. I believe if this had happened in 2019 instead of 2020, there would have been a resolution already in the same time frame, if not quicker. But it wasn’t 2019. It happened when it happened and it’s important to get it right rather than fast.”

Feorenzo also says she’s equally disappointed by accusations being made on social media of a coverup.

“Who is covering what up?” Feorenzo said. “Honestly, you can’t cover up information unless you possess that information. And until that information is released by the proper authority, in this case the HCPO, there is nothing to cover up. To say that on social media is ridiculous. And it’s irresponsible. As a newspaper, the rules of the road are a lot different than the rules of social media.

“If someone made a seriously false accusation and we printed it, we could be sued for libel, and something like that could effectively end us as a legitimate news-gathering organization. What someone says online isn’t subject to those same rules.

“This is what happens when people think they know what happened. The truth is, only the people involved know for now. And even if people believe they have the details, until they are official, they will not be reported in my newspaper. It’s always been that way and it will continue to be that way moving forward, regardless of what the public yearn s for.

“I’ve been part of this community for 40+ years now, so I understand situations arise where the public has the right to know. But this is not about people and personal relationships we have with them. It’s about getting the information right and being patient about it. This is not a crime TV show where everything is condensed into a 42-minute program with instant gratification. This is reality.”

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.