Man tied to 5 killings in New Mexico, New Jersey claims he’s killed 16 people, authorities say

GRANTS, N.M. — A New Mexico man suspected of killing five people, including his ex-wife, across two states has claimed he’s killed a total of 16 people, authorities said.

A New Jersey prosecutor said in court on Friday that Sean M. Lannon, 47, of Grants, has admitted to killing his ex-wife, his former childhood mentor and three others, as well as “11 other individuals who were drug dealers,” according to NJ.com.

“He admitted to killing a total of 16 people, 15 being in New Mexico and one in the state of New Jersey,” Assistant Gloucester County Prosecutor Alec Gutierrez said Friday afternoon. “It’s my understanding that the FBI is assisting New Mexico in their investigation.”

Authorities have not yet corroborated Lannon’s claims of over a dozen victims. The Associated Press reported that Lannon made the incriminating statements in a telephone call with a relative, who told detectives Lannon expressed remorse over his alleged actions.

Lannon reportedly said he’d lured his victims to a home in Grants, a small city about 80 miles west of Albuquerque, and killed them. He claimed he dismembered several of the bodies.

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The Albuquerque Journal reported that two of the four known New Mexico victims were found in pieces.

“Is it possible? Sure, anything’s possible,” Grants police Lt. David Chavez told the AP. “Is it plausible? Unfortunately, we are still investigating that and conducting search warrants for evidentiary value.”

Lannon thus far has been accused of killing five people, beginning with four people whose bodies were found March 5 inside a pickup truck parked at Albuquerque International Sunport, the largest airport in New Mexico. According to the Journal, the bodies were found by Sunport security personnel investigating a foul smell on the top level of the airport’s parking deck.

Those victims have been identified as Lannon’s ex-wife, Jennifer Lannon, 39, and three men: Jesten Mata, 40, Matthew Miller, 21, and Randall Apostalon, 60. Three of the four victims — Lannon, Mata and Miller — had been reported missing in January from the area of Grants.

Gutierrez said in court Friday that Sean Lannon told police he walked in on his ex-wife with one of the slain men, NJ.com reported. Grants authorities have described Mata as Jennifer Lannon’s boyfriend.

Police officials said Jennifer Lannon, Mata and Miller were known to be friends, but it was unclear how, or even if, the trio knew Apostalon. According to Miller’s family, he was last seen Jan. 24 as he left to give Mata and Lannon a ride somewhere.

When Miller’s truck was found abandoned in Grants on Feb. 9, Grants investigators began searching for Lannon and Mata to ask about Miller’s disappearance.

By Feb. 18, all three were determined to be missing.

“We haven’t figured out how Randall fits into this,” Chavez told the newspaper.

Apostalon, who lived out of his vehicle, was known to give people rides for cash, but it was not known if that’s how he met the other three victims. Their bodies were in Apostalon’s truck when they were found, the AP reported.

The cause of their deaths has not been made public.

Grants police officials are still looking for a second man, Daniel Lemos, 45, for questioning in connection with the deaths of Jennifer Lannon, Mata, Miller and Apostalon.

Three days after the quadruple homicide was discovered, a welfare check conducted 2,000 miles away at the East Greenwich Township, New Jersey, home of Michael Dabkowski, 66, led to the discovery of his body.

Dabkowski, who has been described as a Big Brothers Big Sisters of America youth mentor to Sean Lannon and his twin brother, Eric Lannon, was bludgeoned to death with a hammer, according to court records obtained by the AP.

Sean Lannon has told authorities that Dabkowski sexually abused him as a child. He said he broke into the older man’s home to retrieve sexually explicit photos of himself with Dabkowski.

Lannon has been charged with multiple counts of murder, burglary, robbery, theft of a motor vehicle and weapons charges in Dabkowski’s killing, according to Gloucester County prosecutors.

PRESS RELEASE Re: East Greenwich Township Homicide Update of 5:00pm: Acting Prosecutor Christine Hoffman and East...

Posted by Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office on Thursday, March 11, 2021

Though Lannon is the primary suspect in the New Mexico slayings, he had not yet been charged as of Tuesday afternoon. Chavez told NJ.com that authorities were close to filing charges there.

Jennifer Lannon’s brother, Chris Whitman, told the AP over the weekend that Sean Lannon told the family Jennifer had “run off” with some friends in January. Though the couple had divorced in 2019, they still lived together in Grants.

Whitman said his family did not believe his sister had run off and left behind her children, including two girls ages 6 and 7 and a 4-year-old boy she’d had with Sean Lannon. Jennifer Lannon has five children total, according to a GoFundMe page set up to help her family.

“She was a great mom and, just, it would be uncharacteristic of her to not be with her children,” Whitman said in a call from his Washington Township, New Jersey, home.

When family members could not reach Jennifer Lannon, they reported her missing.

According to Whitman, Sean Lannon flew with the children March 4, the day before Jennifer Lannon’s body was found, to New Jersey, where he left the children with his family and said he was returning west to continue looking for his ex-wife.

“They were still parenting together, and there was no indication that there was trouble, at all,” Whitman told the AP. “From my knowledge and our family’s knowledge, they were working on their relationship and heading in the right direction.”

From his family’s South Jersey home, Sean Lannon headed to Virginia, using a false identity to get rides from drivers with Uber and Lyft, according to NJ.com. He then returned to New Jersey, where he broke into a home in Elk Township.

He attempted to break into a second house but was chased away by a neighbor, police officials said.

It was after the second break-in attempt that he went to Dabkowski’s home, authorities said.

Lannon was arrested March 10 in St. Louis, Missouri. He was driving Dabkowski’s stolen vehicle when he was taken into custody.

The hammer used to kill Dabkowski was in the vehicle when Lannon was arrested, NJ.com reported.

Albuquerque police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos Jr. said Sunday that three of the four victims found slain at the airport are believed to have been killed in Grants. One is believed to have died in Albuquerque.

“Shortly after Mr. Lannon was arrested, our detectives went to St. Louis and interviewed him about the case,” Gallegos said. “Right now, we are still looking for evidence, doing search warrants and talking to a lot of people, but nobody has been charged yet.”

A newsletter obtained by NJ.com shows that Dabkowski was named “Big Brother of the Year” in 1985 by the Big Brothers and Sisters of Gloucester and Camden County. At the time, the Lannon twins were 11 years old.

In a feature in the newsletter, published by Dabkowski’s employer, the boys said that Dabkowski, a research engineer by trade, took them to movies, as well as boating, hiking and fishing.

“I am happy to have Mike as my Big Brother,” Sean Lannon said, according to NJ.com. “He acts very nice and we do lots of things with him. We build boats, cars and things like that. We go a lot of places together.”

Dabkowski said he learned a lot from his young friends, as well.

“For all the time that he has shared with Eric and Sean, for all that he has taught them: games, woodworking sports skills, and the patience and perseverance that goes along with them, Mike says that his Little Brothers have taught him even more,” the article stated.

Whitman told the AP that his family knew nothing of the allegations Sean Lannon had made against Dabkowski, but said he’d met the older man a few years ago at a birthday party for one of Sean and Jennifer Lannon’s children.

“I knew he was a close … just a close friend to Sean, and that he was a father figure,” Whitman said. “But outside of that, we knew nothing else.”

Frank Unger, Lannon’s public defender, on Friday challenged the state’s probable cause to charge his client with murder. According to NJ.com, he argued that Dabkowski allowed Lannon into his home.

What followed was, at worst, manslaughter provoked in the heat of passion, the attorney said.

“He was repeatedly sexually assaulted, and during that time, (Dabkowski) documented those sexual assaults, those rapes, by taking pictures of himself with Mr. Lannon in sexually compromised positions,” Unger argued.

He said Lannon retrieved two hammers from Dabkowski’s garage and handed them to the older man, telling him, ‘You’re going to need these. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“I would suggest that this fact alone illustrates this was not purposeful murder,” Unger said, according to NJ.com. “He did not even bring a weapon to the home.”

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The defense attorney said Lannon sought to retrieve the explicit photos because he didn’t “want anybody to have control over (him) any longer.”

After turning over the photos, Dabkowski “attempted to seduce” Lannon before attacking him with the hammers, Unger alleged. He said his client killed Dabkowski during the subsequent fight.

As of Tuesday, Lannon was being held without bond in the jail in Salem County, New Jersey.

Whitman told the AP that Lannon’s allegations of child sex abuse are “heartbreaking,” and that through his anger over his sister’s killing, part of him feels bad for his former brother-in-law.

“We still want justice,” Whitman said. “We’re clinging to our faith right now in the Lord. And, you know, one day — it might not be any time soon — we want to get to a place of forgiveness for him.”