Man Held in New Jersey Killing Charged in New Mexico Deaths

The Associated Press
By The Associated Press
March 26, 2021USshare
Man Held in New Jersey Killing Charged in New Mexico Deaths
Sean Lannon is shown in this undated photo. (Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office via AP)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—Authorities on Friday charged a man already accused of a beating death in New Jersey with murder and other counts in New Mexico in the slaying of his ex-wife and two of her friends who were lured to their deaths over a period of weeks before they were dismembered and their remains stuffed into plastic bins.

An arrest warrant affidavit for Sean Lannon, 47, details the gruesome weeks that followed the January shooting death of his ex-wife Jennifer Lannon, 39, at the home the couple shared with their three children in the city of Grants, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) west of Albuquerque.

Lannon told investigators during an interview following his arrest in the New Jersey case that he found Jennifer and Jesten Mata, 40, together at home. He claimed the two were having an affair and had given the children drugs to get them to sleep. He said that after Mata left, Jennifer began to freak out because she thought the children were dead.

Jennifer Lannon and family
Jennifer Lannon, second from right, poses for a photo with her brother Chris Whitman, second from left, and sisters, Sarah Whitman, far left, and Kim Bermudez in Blackwood, N.J., in October 2020. (Sharon Whitman via AP)

According to the affidavit, Lannon claimed Jennifer tried to overdose on heroin, saying she couldn’t live without the kids. She still had a pulse so he said he shot her in the head. He told authorities he planned to kill himself but then heard one of the children cry out and put the gun down.

Lannon told investigators that he put Jennifer’s body and the bedding into a container and placed it in the backyard.

It would be a week before he could lure Mata back to the home and kill him, he told investigators. Another week went by before Matthew Miller, 21, came over and was also shot in the back of the head. Lannon also had accused Miller of selling drugs to his ex-wife and Mata.

The court records alleged that Lannon tried to hide the killings by telling police and others that the three friends had run off with a bag full of drugs. The affidavit says Lannon used several plastic containers to conceal the bodies and other items, and that friends unknowingly helped him move the bins along with his other belongings to Albuquerque in mid-February.

Lannon told police he used handsaws and knives to dismember Miller and Mata to put them into the containers. Court records also say carpeting and flooring had been removed from the Lannons’ home in Grants.

The remains of Jennifer Lannon, Mata and Miller were found in early March inside a pickup truck at a parking garage at the Albuquerque airport. Also discovered was the body of the truck’s owner, Randal Apostalon.

Lannon told investigators that he killed the 60-year-old Albuquerque man on Feb. 24 after he asked for more money to help move the containers to another spot. Apostalon was known for offering rides for money and often took odd jobs.

Authorities also have been looking into Sean Lannon’s claims that he killed 11 other people in New Mexico, but police have said there were no records of people missing from the area or other police reports that would indicate there are potential victims.

Authorities said in court documents that Lannon acknowledged the additional killings in a phone call to a relative.

Lannon remains in custody in New Jersey on charges stemming from the death of Michael Dabkowski there. Extradition papers have yet to be filed by New Mexico authorities and an attorney still needs to be appointed.

Lannon is accused of breaking into the 66-year-old’s New Jersey home, just south of Philadelphia, and beating him to death with a hammer, according to an affidavit. Lannon told investigators that Dabkowski had sexually abused him as a child and that he had gone to the home to retrieve sexually explicit photos.

Prosecutors are investigating the sex abuse claim and more.

“There are a lot of aspects to the investigation that we’re still following up on,” said Thomas Gilbert, chief of detectives for the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office. “We’re conducting a full and thorough investigation and everything that connects to it.”

Dabkowski’s body was discovered March 8, three days after the remains were found in New Mexico. Lannon was driving Dabkowski’s car when he was arrested March 10 in St. Louis, according to authorities, who are not sure why he was in Missouri.

Assistant deputy public defender Ronald Appleby has declined to comment on the New Jersey charges. A court hearing in that case is scheduled for April 8.

Sean and Jennifer Lannon lived in New Jersey before moving to New Mexico a few years ago—before he filed for divorce.

Court records related to the couple’s divorce and custody case showed that Sean Lannon was awarded sole custody of the couple’s three children in 2019 and that a protective plan from the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department included only supervised visitation by their mother over concerns about the potential for neglect due to prescription drug abuse.

Relatives say Sean Lannon flew to New Jersey in early March with the couple’s three children—6- and 7-year-old girls and a 4-year-old boy. He dropped them off with relatives, claiming he was going back to look for his ex-wife. Her family already was worried, saying it wasn’t like her to be without her children.

By Susan Montoya Bryan

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