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A man who called police and claimed he was...

By
D.J. ROSENBAUM

MORRISTOWN, N.J. -- A man who called police and claimed he was stabbed on a highway was held Tuesday in the abduction-slaying of a young woman, one of a series of five recent murders that shocked central New Jersey.

James Koedatich, 34, of Morristown, was charged with the murder of Deirdre O'Brien, 25, and sent to the Warren County Jail in lieu of $250,000, Prosecutor Howard McGinn said.

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At a news conference, called jointly by McGinn, Morris County Prosecutor Lee Trumbull and State Police Superintendent Col. Clinton Pagano, authorities declined to link the Dec. 5 stabbing death of Miss O'Brien with the homicides of two other women, one man and one 16-year-old boy.

Trumbull said Koedatich, a superintendent at the Par-Troy Apartments in Wharton, called Morristown police Sunday night and told them his car had been pulled over along Route 24 -- about one-quarter mile from where Miss O'Brien was abducted -- and he had been stabbed in the back.

He was admitted to Morristown General Hospital for treatment of a cut in his lower right back. Upon his release from the hospital, Koedatich, who lives with his mother and stepfather, was arrested.

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'Township police checked the scene and the vehicle,' Trumbull said. 'A subsequent investigation revealed facts sufficient to arrest Koedatich for the Deirdre O'Brien murder.'

Pagano noted there was no evidence the two knew each other.

'Any fears that arose as a result of the Deirdre O'Brien killing can be allayed,' Trumbull said.

Miss O'Brien, a waitress at the The Library restaurant in Cedar Knolls, was driving home in Morris Township when the assailant forced her off the road.

She was abducted from her car, then stabbed near the Allamuchy Rest Area on Interstate 80. Bleeding, she stumbled out of the woods and awakened a napping truck driver who wrapped her in a sleeping bag and notified police by citizen band radio.

Before dying at Hackettstown Community Hospital, Miss O'Brien described her attacker.

Twelve days earlier, on Thanksgiving Day, the body of a Parsippany high school cheerleader, Amie Hoffman, 18, was found stabbed and floating in a Randolph Township reservoir.

She had been abducted Nov. 23 from her car in the parking lot of the Morris County Mall in Cedar Knolls where she worked.

An investigation also was continuing in the slaying of Judy Brown, 27, of Rockaway Township, found shot to death Jan. 5 in her parked car at the Arlington Plaza Shopping Center in Parsippany.

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Suspects were still being sought in the murders of Joseph Wesco, 34 of New Providence, killed in the Madison train station last Oct. 21, and of Christopher Thomas, 16, of Boonton, fatally shot last Oct. 1 at the Rockaway Townsquare Mall.

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