New Jersey man acquitted in retrial in 2014 beating death of college student from Tennessee

Feb 24, 2024, 8:20 AM

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey man has been acquitted in a retrial in the beating death of a college student from Tennessee a decade ago.

Jurors in Middlesex County deliberated for five hours before acquitting Timothy Puskas of all charges Wednesday in the 2014 death of 22-year-old former Rutgers student William McCaw of Gallatin, Tennessee.

“I only wish my mother were still alive to see me cleared of this injustice,” Puskas said in a statement Thursday. He offered his “heart and prayers” to the McCaw family but said, “Contrary to what you have been led to believe, I did not assault nor kill your beloved son.”

McCaw had been walking home from a party before his body was found in deep snow in a New Brunswick backyard in February 2014. County prosecutors said he had been beaten to death with something like a crowbar or a wrench. He was attending Kean College but formerly attended Rutgers and frequently returned to the New Brunswick area.

Puskas was convicted in 2017 and sentenced to 40 years, but a state appeals court overturned the conviction in 2021, saying no physical evidence linked him to the crime and surveillance videos didn’t show any interaction between him and the victim. The appeals court also said prosecutors should not have been allowed to use as evidence a recorded conversation between the defendant and someone who died before the trial.

Defense attorney Joseph Mazraani tried to cast doubt on prosecution theories about the slaying and said other witnesses blamed his client to get lenient sentences for themselves. He said Puskas “wants to gather his life back together as best as he can” and called the case ”a devastating example of what happens when cooperators and informants are not closely scrutinized, when prosecutors are not held accountable and when law enforcement fail to investigate properly.”

A Facebook post attributed to the victim’s father, Bob McCaw, on a memorial site said jurors were not allowed under New Jersey law to know some things about the defendant and the case. He expressed gratitude to prosecutors for their efforts and said “the fight is always worth it and love always wins.”

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New Jersey man acquitted in retrial in 2014 beating death of college student from Tennessee