Beyond Redemption

“We just kept hitting and hitting him,” 18-year-old Dominic Coia told Philadelphia-area detectives after he and his brother and two friends were arrested for one of the most cold-blooded murders in recent memory. “We took Sweeney’s wallet and split up the money, and we partied beyond redemption.”
In May 2005, Dominic, his brother, Nicholas, and friend Edward Batzig, Jr., none of whom was old enough to buy beer legally, were sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for beating Jason Sweeney to death.
Along with self-described “cold-blooded, death-worshipping bitch” Justina Morley, who was 15 at the time they committed the crime, the trio beat the 16-year-old Sweeney to death in a vacant Fishtown lot in 2003.
Morley, who copped a plea and got off with a 17-to-35-year sentence for third-degree murder, lured Sweeney to his death with a promise of sex so that the killers could rob him of his paycheck.
The judge who presided over the group’s preliminary exam in 2004 said that he had seen many brutal murders cases in his time on the bench, but was appalled by what happened to Sweeney, a potential Navy SEAL who had a crush on Morley.
Jason Sweeney“This one is beyond,” Municipal Court Judge Seamus P. McCaffery said when he bound them over for trial. “This is barbaric. This is something out of the Dark Ages…. Friends. Friends! Over five hundred bucks.”
Even Dominic Coia during questioning realized that he had become something less than human. Detectives, hoping that the savage attack could be blamed on drugs, asked him if he had been high at the time.
“No. I was as sober as I am now,” he said. “It is sick, isn’t it?”
They planned the killing for weeks, and listened repeatedly on the day of the killing to “Helter Skelter” by the Beatles, trial testimony revealed.
They counted down “three, two, one,” Dominic Coia said, and then attacked.
Sweeney was beaten with a hammer, a hatchet and a rock. The four then divided the $500 take among them – $125 apiece – and purchased marijuana, heroin and Xanax.
“Eddie swung his hatchet and hit Jason in the right front side of his head, and Jason staggered. Jason touched his head and realized he was bleeding and said, ‘What are you doing?’ and started to run.
“Domenic jumped on Jason and started hitting Jason on the head with his hammer. Jason was saying, ‘Please, no, guys – stop – please,'” Morley told investigators.
“Dom jumped on his back and started hitting him… with the hammer… . I saw the hammer go into his head, and it wouldn’t come out,” Morley said.
Every bone in Sweeney’s face – except his left cheekbone – was fractured during the attack, the medical examiner testified during the trial. Most of the blows were struck when Sweeney was already lying on the ground, defenseless.
“They were very heavy blows, and any one of them could ultimately cause death,” he told the jurors.
Afterward, the murderers gathered for what one described as “a group hug.”
The Coia brothers, Batzig and Morley returned to a friend’s house right afterward, testified the friend, who washed their bloody clothes. “Dominic comes in, he’s shaking,” he said. “Well, they’re all shaking. They’re saying that they did it, they couldn’t believe they killed him.”
On the stand, Morley acknowledged that before Sweeney was slain, she had sex with both Nicholas Coia and Batzig in exchange for heroin. And shortly after they were arrested, she stripped for the trio in a prison van on the way to the courthouse.
She cried on the stand, but Morley was acting a part.
“I’m a cold-blooded death-worshiping bitch who survives by feeding off the weak and lonely. I lure them, and then I crush them,” Morley wrote. “I am guilty. But I still don’t feel guilty for anything… . I still enjoy my flashbacks. They give me comfort. I love them.”
Bear in mind that unless Morley takes a shiv to the ribs in the prison yard, she’ll be walking the streets as a free woman by the time she’s 50.
Jason Sweeney’s family has set up a scholarship fund for students who want to attend the Valley Forge Military Academy. It is reserved for a student like Jason – a C student with financial need. Jason Sweeney was accepted to the private military academy for fall 2001, a step closer to his goal of being a Navy SEAL, but was unable to attend after his parents could not come up with the tuition.