Arrest in death of Ocean Co. teen

March 19, 2008 4:02:50 PM PDT
Police have arrested a man they say strangled his teenage cousin. 24-year-old Garry Zigich Jr. is being held on half a million dollars bail in the death of 15-year-old Brittany Cena, whose body was discovered in the basement of her Colonial Drive home in Toms River Tuesday night. Zigich had been living in the basement of the home.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean it," he mouthed to more than a dozen of the teen's family and friends who sat arm in arm in the courtroom.

Old neighbors left stuffed animals and balloons in front of the house and Brittany's friends gathered nearby as police continue unraveling the events that led to the teen's murder.

Lt. Michael Dorick of Toms River Police told reporters on Wednesday, "A number of friends during the day had been attempting to contact her because they were expecting her at school and she didn't show up."

Her mother reported her missing to police Tuesday afternoon when she didn't come home from school. An hour later her grandparents made the grim discovery.

"There was a cover over her, which initially, until you remove that cover, did you find the victim who was in the basement all the while," said Chief Mike Mastronardy.

A friend last spoke to Brittany about 6:30 yesterday morning. Prosecutors say 2 and a half hours later Gary Zigich checked himself in to a hospital in Red Bank.

Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford says, "He had asked to be admitted there, he was complaining of suicidal tendencies."

Tips from Brittany's friends at Toms River High School North led police to Zigich and he was arrested last night.

Matt Garcia, another cousin of Brittany's who doesn't know Zigich, offered this: "I just can't believe she's gone. My cousin meant the world to me. I don't know why something like this would happen."