MORRIS COUNTY — Three Morris County Sheriff’s Office superior officers, two of whom helped probe some of the county’s most heinous or baffling crimes, retired as of Wednesday, July 31 with 75 years of experience between them.
The retirees, Sheriff’s Office Chief Edward Crooker, Detective Captain Bruce Dunn and Detective Lieutenant Philip DiGavero, all joined the Morris County Sheriff’s Office on July 18, 1994, as Corrections Officers who worked in the Correctional Facility and several years later transferred to the Bureau of Law Enforcement.
Chief Crooker spent nearly his entire career, 19 years, in the Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Unit. Detective Captain Dunn worked in the Protective Services Division and for many years in CSI, the unit that is responsible for collecting and analyzing evidence amassed from crimes throughout Morris County’s 39 municipalities.
Detective Lieutenant DiGavero is credited with overseeing the Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit at one time, helping to electronically modernize evidence storage, and arranging with the Rockaway-based Prevention Is Key program (PIK) to have expired medication drop-off boxes at police departments that are collected, inventoried and destroyed by the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Evidence Unit.
“These three Morris County Sheriff’s Office superior officers have served the county and the office with class and distinction by pouring their minds, hearts and souls into investigations and serving the public with integrity. I am proud to know them and to have worked beside them, and I wish them the best in the years ahead,” Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon said.
The three retirees all worked in the now-demolished Morris County jail that was replaced by a new facility that opened in Morris Township in 2000. Chief Crooker recalled how he also worked in the 1990s as a CSI detective in a dilapidated building on Washington Street in Morristown and then in another location before a state-of-the-art crime lab that today is the base of operations for CSI was opened in 2013.
Both Detective Captain Dunn and Chief Crooker worked in CSI on the investigation and successful prosecution of the killer of 10-year-old Walter Contreras Valenzuela in Morristown in May 2001. Chief Crooker matched a garden cultivator found near the child’s body to wounds on his head while Detective Captain Dunn located multiple items of evidence at the crime scene that gave detectives insight into the child’s final moments.
A friend of the Valenzuela family wrote a moving letter in 2008 that praised then-Sergeant Dunn’s involvement in the probe and trial.
“I feel his work was phenomenal and done in such a professional manner that his investigation was never questioned. I cannot express in words how important he is to the Valenzuela family and those that love them. Without his skills we know that perhaps there may have been a different outcome in the trial. We are eternally grateful to him and feel very blessed to know that we are under the protection of the very competent Morris County Sheriff’s Department,” the friend wrote.
Detective Captain Dunn also had the ingenious idea of lifting fingerprints from a decayed body found in 2002 that involved soaking the skin in glycerol for 24 hours and placing the skin over a detective’s fingers and rolling for prints. The prints of the deceased woman were on file in the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which led to her identification.
“I’m very lucky to have had a good career,” Detective Captain Dunn said.
Besides cases of bank robberies, fatal crashes, robberies and other crimes, both Detective Captain Dunn and Chief Crooker worked on the high-profile 2002 double murders of Jeffrey Eresman and Erik Rewoldt at the Funcoland video game store in Roxbury, and assisted federal officials in executing search warrants after the largest mass murder through acts of terrorism in America on Sept. 11, 2001.
Chief Crooker worked on multiple major crimes, including the killing of Father Edward Hinds in 2009 in Chatham Borough, but he has never forgotten a simple event that ended well. He was called out to process the scene of what a homeowner thought was a burglary but Chief Crooker, then a CSI detective, was able to find the woman’s missing ring under a bed.
Chief Crooker thanked Sheriff James Gannon for his responsiveness and support of officers and detectives.
“The resources he gives us are second to none,” said Chief Crooker.
Detective Lieutenant DiGavero, who also worked in the Sheriff’s Office Warrants Section and Protective Services Division which oversees security at the Morris County courthouse, said he is honored to have worked with many exceptional people.
He said he is proud of helping to organize the storage of evidence from crime scenes, which is managed electronically through a program called BEAST, for Bar-Coded Evidence Analysis Statistical Tracking.
“I’ll miss everybody. It’s been a real honor,” Detective Lieutenant DiGavero said.