Following the murder of Matt Novak Jr., the Novak Family has being sifting through all pieces of evidence to find Jr.’s murders and remove them from the streets.
By KRYSTAL NURSE
It’s been 10 years since Matt Novak Sr., Gloucester Township Police Detective Chuck Dougherty and the entire Novak Family last heard Matt Novak Jr.’s voice and felt his kind spirit. His homicide shook their worlds and has made them go from grief to seeking justice.
On Sept. 28 in 2008, Mullica Hill resident Matt Novak Jr. was in Philadelphia near 6th and Green Streets and flagged a car to get jumper cables for his broken down car. The suspects drove him to 13th and Fairmount Avenues, shot him in the hip as he stepped out of the car and fled the scene. Novak later died in a hospital as a result of his injuries.
Witnesses have identified the suspects as being two or three black males, however, no other descriptions are known.
Novak Jr. was a “lover of life” who touched many different people in many different ways. Novak Sr. said he loved all of his family members and that his murder was, and still is, something that hit the Novak family hard and led them to find ways to cope while searching for the suspects.
“You just learn to cope and just try to get by every day without seeing him,” said Novak Sr. “The best thing I can do is to find the three guys who killed him.”
Dougherty was Novak Jr.’s cousin and godfather, and for him, it’s been especially rough because his cousin’s homicide was something he hadn’t personally dealt with.
“Professionally, it’s something that I’ve never dealt with before,” said Dougherty. “I’ve always helped people in their worst times. I never had to deal with a personal grief or loss especially a homicide.”
Dougherty said that with his experience as a police officer, after finding out about what happened to Novak Jr., he started jumping in to search for evidence and to find out whom the suspects were and the car they used that day.
“He was a chef, a cook, a friend, a boyfriend, a son, an uncle and he left a lot of people in his wake,” said Novak Sr. “Unfortunately, you don’t find out to the extent of how much people cared about him until he passed when everyone showed up at his funeral.”
He added people from all over drove to the area to attend his funeral and it gave him happiness to see everyone come out for Novak Jr. and pay their respects.
The family is pleading for anyone who might know what happened to “do the right thing” and come forward with the information. Det. Brian Peters of the Philadelphia Police Department said if anyone is unsure of their safety in coming forward, the department will do its best to protect anyone and everyone who feels they or loved ones are in danger.
“Put yourself in the family’s shoes and feel the frustration and anger and do the right thing and the right thing will come from it,” said Peters. “Somebody could come in, and there’s avenues to protect their identity and their involvement, and we’ll make sure they’re protected. We can address any type of issue they may have if they come forward with the information.”
Before taking his final breaths, the Novak family said that it was Novak Jr. himself who helped police identify what state the car came from.
“Matt was conscious and he told investigators that it was a car with New Jersey tags, and the video appeared and they were able to verify the tags,” said Dougherty.
The car, through surveillance footage, is identified to be a 2006 to 2008 blue Chevrolet Impala with New Jersey tags.
With the reward, as of Sept. 27, being at $45,000, all involved hope it will lead to an end in the case. For now, both Novak Sr. and Dougherty have dedicated their time to helping other families seeking assistance in either suspicious death investigations or coping with the loss of a loved one.
“We had an unsolved death — Carol Reiff — a few years ago, who was found dead, and I talked with her daughter her (at the Gloucester Township police station) and I told her ‘I know exactly what you’re going through,’” said Dougherty.
He then went out and helped her funnel through the evidence and searched to find out who killed her. Although they were not able to find a suspect, it’s still something he now does to help others who are in his position.
Detectives Peters and Dougherty and Novak Sr. all said they will feel the greatest relief when the suspects are caught and sentenced for what they did to Novak Jr.
“To find the guys that killed him isn’t going to bring him back, but we need that closure,” said Dougherty. “We need to know that the guys aren’t out there killing somebody else or bringing pain or harm to somebody else and their family.”
“I want them caught because of what they did to my son, but at least it’s more that these guys are incarcerated and they can’t be running around doing this to other people,” added Novak Sr.
Every year, Novak Sr. rents a billboard in the main Philadelphia and New Jersey thoroughfares in big black letters stating the current reward, and “WhoKilledMattNovak.com” in hopes of someone seeing it and coming forward with information.
If anyone has information regarding Novak Jr.’s death or the owner of the car involved, they are urged to call the Philadelphia Police Department’s anonymous tip line at (215) 546-TIPS or send an email to TipLine@CrimeCommission.org.