Scott Kologi Murders Family on New Year’s Eve, 2017

The Kologi family:Jonathan Ruiz, Brittany, Steve Jr. Scott, Linda, & Steve

On December 31, 2017, Scott Kologi, 16 (at the time), killed three members of his family and a family friend.

Background

Scott Kologi lived with his family in Long Branch, New Jersey. His family consisted of his parents, Linda and Steven Kologi, 42 & 44; his brother Steven Kologi Jr.; an unnamed brother; his sister Brittany Kologi, 18; and his grandfather Adrian Kologi. Mary Schultz, 70, who was a long-time family friend and Adrian’s girlfriend, also lived in the home.

Kologi has been described as a child with special needs. A neighbor told a media outlet that Kologi did not attend the same public schools as his siblings, needed special assistance, and was cared for by his mother; they added he was “fully functional and comprehended what we were saying”.        

(Left) Scott Kologi on his 14th birthday (Above) Mary Schultz & Adrian Kologi with Scott Kologi on his graduation

Financial Issues

Court documents show that the family was having a financial hardship for some time. Steven Sr. had declared bankruptcy in 2009. The family had been having a hard time keeping up with the mortgage and stopped making payments on the house by February 2016, according to court documents.

Investigators do not believe the money issues the family was having had anything to do with the murders, but a look at Linda’s Twitter shows how much of an impact it had on her mental health.

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The Murders

The Kologi family was celebrating the New Year at home, with Mary and an unnamed guest. (The unnamed brother was not home at the time.) Brittany was on break from Stockton University, where she was a health science major.

Shortly before midnight, Kologi found a rifle in his home. According to Adrian (the grandfather), Kologi took the rifle outside to shoot random people. At some point, he decided he would shoot his family instead.

After arriving back home, Kologi was in his room when his mom entered, looking for him, so they could celebrate the New Year together. When she entered, Kologi shot her. Kologi told police in an interview (watch below) how he killed each person.  He said he shot his mom 5 or 7 times in the torso and chest. His father responded to the gunshots and was immediately shot in the back.

 

 

During the trial, Steven Jr. testified he saw his brother walking calmly down the stairs and into the kitchen, carrying an assault rifle. Upon entering the kitchen, he shot his sister 3 times in her chest, while she was sitting down. Rafaella Bonetempo, Steven Jr.’s girlfriend, hid behind the refrigerator and called 911. Mary, who Kologi referred to as his grandmother, was shot four times.

Kologi stated he snapped out of his daze after shooting Shulz, his grandfather’s girlfriend, and seeing his grandfather fall to his knees.When Kologi was done shooting Linda, Steven, Brittany, and Mary were deceased. The surviving victims called 911 at 11:43 pm.

When police arrived, they found the victims “riddled with bullets”. The semi-automatic weapon was located at the scene. Kologi was placed under arrest.

Steven Jr., Adrian, and the unnamed guest were able to escape without injury. Investigators have not disclosed a motive.  

Arrest & Pre-trial

When Kologi was arrested, he was charged as a youth, therefore, a gag order was placed on the case. His public defender attempted to have him placed in a psychiatric facility, but the judge denied the request.

After about a year of family court proceedings, the judge decided to escalate the case and charge Kologi as an adult.

In a pre-trail hearing, prosecutors argued a video of an interview Kologi gave right after the murders should be admitted as evidence. Kologi’s lawyer agued the video should not be allowed in, as Steven Jr. should was not a suitable guardian for Kologi. The defense also argued that Steven Jr. feared he may face charges for leaving the gun and ammunition in a place accessible to his younger brother. The judge agreed with the prosecution and the video has been entered as evidence. Steven Jr. did not face any charges in this case.

During the interview, when asked if he knew the status of his family, Kologi responded “I know they are all deceased”. He explained he did not feel like he was doing anything physically, even though he could see what he was doing.

 

Kologi also told investigators “I aimed at their head and what not.” The detective interjects, “You aimed at their head?” and Kologi responds, “Yea when I saw they were still moving, cus, like, even though I was in this type of thing, I didn’t want them to be in pain at the same time.” Kologi goes on to explain how he killed each member of his family.

Kologi has been charged with four counts of murder in the first degree and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. He iwas being held without bond in the Middlesex County Youth Detention Center while awaiting trial.

Trial

The trial started on February, 9, 2022, and ended on February 24, 2022.

During the trial, it was revealed that Kologi had a half-brother, Jonathan Ruiz. Jonathon had told the jury how he considered Steven Kologi Sr. to be his father, even though he was not biologically. Even though he had moved out of the Kologi residence, he still visited often and was close with his family.

Jonathan Ruiz

Jonathan was at the Kologi residence, visiting his family with his wife (who was his girlfriend at the time). The couple spent a few hours with the family, celebrating the new year. At one point, Jonathan and his mother left to go to Domino’s just to get food specifically for Kologi. He described the drive to be happy. Jonathan described everyone’s mood that day to be happy; he said there were no arguments, and Kologi seemed normal.

 

Jonathan left with his wife to go to a friend’s house in Philadelphia. While there, he heard about what had happened at his family’s house and drove back.

Defense

Kologi’s defense was that he was in a dissociative stated when he shot his family. His legal guardian hired a psychologist, Dr. Maureen Santina, who told the jury that Kologi had experienced a psychotic break and was in a dissociative state the day of the quadruple murder. The defense told the jury, though Kologi committed the murders, he was insane when he did so.

During the trial, Dr. Santina reported to the jury what Kologi had told her he experienced on the night of the murders. Kologi told Dr. Santina that he had experienced hallucinations in the months leading up to the murders, which had become more frequent and intense as time went on. Kologi had experienced impulses to hurt others. He told Dr. Santina that he told his mom about these intrusive thoughts, but his mom told them that if he ignored them, they would go away. Besides the impulse to hurt people, Kologi became paranoid, believing that his family wanted to hurt him.

Scott Kologi

In the week leading up to the murder. Kologi had stated he saw a woman laying in his bed next to him. The woman seemed to be human “but then her eyes turned red and she a long, sharp teeth, and then turned black, as if she was being burnt up.” On the morning of the murders, Kologi had told Dr. Santina that he had “felt off”. While in the shower, he had heard a voice stated, “Welcome to the side of evil.”

Dr. Santina told jurors she believes Kologi was experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, which can be seen in his interview with police. She pointed out statements that Kologi made immediately after the murders, where he stated he was on autopilot, and it felt like he was watching a movie. Dr. Santina told jurors she diagnosed him with early onset schizophrenia.

Prosecution

The prosecution Dr. Park Dietz, who told the jury about Kologi’s mental state. Dr. Dietz stated Kologi was not schizophrenic but had an autistic spectrum disorder. He explained that the hallucinations Kologi saw the night of the murders would not warrant a diagnosis of schizophrenia, as he experienced them for a short amount of time, not consistently, as someone with schizophrenia would. Dr. Dietz pointed out, while Kologi has been incarcerated, the prison has not felt that he would benefit from taking anti-psychotic medication. He also referenced the police interview after the murders, noting, when Kologi was asked if he was experiencing paranoia; he said no.

Dr. Park testified he believes Kologi had experienced numerous occasions where he felt bullied or mistreated. Even if these interactions were insignificant, the list of wrongdoings gathered in Kologi’s mind and the tension within Kologi had built up. The tension grew to be too much and Kologi had released it, resulting in the murders of his family.

Verdict

The jury began deliberations on February 24, 2022 at 9:30 and the verdict was read around 3pm. The jury found Kologi guilty on 4 counts of murder with the extra charge of having a weapon unlawfully.

Funeral for Linda, Steven Sr., & Brittany Kologi

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