BARNEGAT – Her dark eyes shout a story of anger, remorse, and grief. Breanna Micciolo’s son Corey died suddenly on April 2, just a month shy of his seventh birthday.
Corey, who lived in Barnegat for only a few months, was a first-grade student at the Cecil S. Collins School.
As she mourns his loss, the 24-year-old mother wants justice to avenge Corey’s wrongful passing.
It isn’t just that children aren’t supposed to die before their parents. Breanna believes her son’s passing came at the hands of another, basing her feelings on what she claims were repetitive incidences of abuse.
Corey Micciolo’s death remains under investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s office. The same law enforcement agency brought charges last week against Christopher John Gregor.
Gregor, the child’s father, turned himself in to authorities on July 9. Ocean County Jail Records show him in custody for endangering the welfare of a child – and, at least temporarily – held without bail.
Before his arrest, Gregor had denied these claims on social media and wrote that there will be consequences for sharing false information.
Breanna fought hard for what she hopes are preliminary charges stemming from a single event in March. She says authorities based their current allegations on video proof of abuse. But, the young mother submits there’s more – and blames the system for failing her son.
“The first time he visited his father, he came home with a busted lip,” shared Breanna. “I went to the police station, and they called DCPP (NJ Child Protective Services). Chris said he accidentally kicked him in the face when he was going to kick a soccer ball. They (DCPP) closed the case.”
After a subsequent visit around Halloween 2019, Corey came home with what Breanna thought looked like rug burn. It started at the top of his face and extended down his arms and legs. The young boy also had a slap mark on his face.
“Corey told me his father told him he was fat and made him run on the treadmill,” Breanna said. “What looked like rug burns were probably from him falling on the rubber on the treadmill.”
Breanna reached out to DCPP directly this time and said Gregor admitted to putting their son on the treadmill. The caseworker told him not to do it again – a mandate Gregor appears to have ignored. According to Breanna, the prosecutor’s office based its endangerment charges on an incident captured on video that involved a treadmill in the clubhouse gym where he resided in Barnegat.
Gregor wasn’t always in Corey’s life or even aware he had a son. Breanna was just 16 when Corey was conceived; Gregor was 21. Paternity tests in approximately 2018 confirmed he was the father.
Breanna’s mother, Rebecca Micciolo, admitted her share of regrets in pushing her daughter to let Corey know his father. But, at the time, it seemed the right thing to do.
“When we would pick up Corey from preschool, he would ask why he didn’t have a daddy to pick him up,” Rebecca explained. “I began thinking about how kids make things for their fathers in school, and he didn’t have one. Besides, Corey kept asking and just wanted a dad.”
Although Breanna says the father complied with child support orders, she recalls Gregor waited almost a year to begin seeing their son. The two went to court, and ultimately Gregor assumed weekday custody of Corey. The father and son initially stayed in Monroe with Gregor’s parents until Gregor moved to Barnegat.
Meanwhile, Breanna began taking photographs of more unexplained bruising and even bite marks. Fingerprint markings stained Corey’s arms and legs, and he once came home with blood pooling at the bottom of his eyes. Breanna continued to alert the caseworker assigned by state child protective services.
“He would tell us that his dad hit him, or he was trying to get away from his dad,” said Breanna. “There was just so much in a little bit of time.”
“I would tell the caseworker from DCPP that he didn’t want to go with his father,” Breanna continued. “Corey was hiding in closets and crying – kicking and screaming that he didn’t want to go. They told me he had to go anyway.”
As a mom, Breanna knew she needed to protect her son and couldn’t wait for DCPP to intervene. She convinced Gregor to allow her to spend overnights and says he demanded sex from her as part of their arrangement. Ultimately, the young woman found she couldn’t take it anymore and went home to stay with her mother in Englishtown.
Until this time, Corey had not admitted to anyone other than his mother and grandmother that his father was doing anything to him. That is, until the day before his death.
On April 1, Breanna brought Corey for an examination by his pediatrician. The physician’s notes say that “Mom said that she noticed the bruises that are now yellow/green on the chest, upper left arm and left hip last Saturday. He also had an abrasion on left forehead and some abrasions on his chest.”
The typewritten doctor’s summary continued, “Corey says that he got the chest, arm, and hip bruises and forehead abrasion when he was playing outside on turf. He said that his dad was teaching him to catch a football. When I pressed him further, he said he got more bruises when he fell from a treadmill. He said that he had to run fast because his father said he was too fat.”
Referred next to Jersey Shore Medical Center, physicians there scheduled an appointment with a child abuse expert across the street from the hospital. Gregor was asked to meet Breanna with Corey the next day. He never showed up for the office visit.
Instead, Gregor called Breanna at 3:30 p.m. and asked her for insurance information. He said the boy wasn’t well, and he planned to take him to the hospital and wouldn’t identify the medical facility. That was the last time Breanna spoke to her son’s father.
The frantic mother called around, trying to locate the hospital where Gregor brought Corey. When she finally determined it was Southern Ocean County Medical Center, Breanna started to race out the door. By now, it was 5:30 p.m.
Englishtown Police met Breanna as she exited her home. She had no idea why they were there.
“They came to notify me that Corey died,” said Breanna. “I was in shock.”
Breanna only recently learned of Corey’s official cause of death after months of waiting for the medical examiner to give a final determination.
“The prosecutor’s office told me Corey died of a contusion to the heart,” Breanna shared. “They’re still investigating the cause of death.”
Meanwhile, Breanna has taken to social media with her own thoughts. She’s flooded Facebook with calls for justice and ignores pleas to refrain from accusations. A couple of YouTube talk shows and podcasts feature the young mother telling her story.
“I won’t stop no matter what anyone tells me,” said Breanna. “I want justice.”
Corey was Rebecca’s only grandchild and Breanna’s only child. Even before his death, the family’s home bore countless photos of Corey from the time he was a baby. A side table with framed pictures now has candles lit and resembles a shrine set up in the boy’s remembrance.
The door to Corey’s room remains open and his bed made up with a favorite teddy bear on top. A holy card from the funeral home is affixed next to one of Corey’s photos on the family refrigerator.
Breanna visits the cemetery where Corey is buried at least two times a day. She can’t believe she is now without the little boy who made her smile.
“Instead of Breanna thinking of where she’s going to buy her first house, she’s concerned about a different investment,” Rebecca said. “She wants to buy a plot in the same cemetery so that when she dies, she will always be near Corey.”