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The end of the infamous Golden Key Motel

The end of the infamous Golden Key Motel

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EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — “THE MOTEL FROM HELL” was the simple way a woman described the Golden Key Motel in a Google review.

On a travel website, a vacationer asked for the dirtiest, sleaziest motel in the area, to which many responded “The Golden Key.” A few people even added that prostitutes could be found there.

While all of the motels on the north side of the Black Horse Pike have terrible reputations, few have the stigma attached to them that the Golden Key does. Soon the former 27-room motel, with nightly rates of less than $20, will be reduced to a pile of rubble as part of a township redevelopment plan.

The stigma is not unmerited. After years of police calls and drug-related arrests, the motel reached another level of infamy in November 2006, when four prostitutes were found dead behind it.

Kim Raffo, 35, Molly Dilts, 20, Barbara Breidor, 42, and Tracy Roberts, 23, were all killed, their bodies left behind the motel barefoot, laid out in a particular way. No one has been charged in the case, which garnered national and worldwide attention.

For many, including Jake Glassey, who lives a couple of blocks from the motel, the Golden Key’s demolition will serve as the end of an era that has haunted both residents and the township’s image.

“Toward the end, the Golden Key became home to crack addicts, prostitutes and wackos,” said Glassey, 70, a former township deputy mayor. “It was an eyesore for the whole area.”

The slayings became the calling card for people who wanted to take potshots at the Atlantic City area.

“When people hear the name ‘West Atlantic City,’ that is what they think of,” Glassey said. “We tried for years to get those motels out of the area, and now it’s finally happening. That murder really accelerated the downfall of the motels.”

The murders are not the only incidents to contribute to the “Bates Motel” reputation of the Golden Key, which the township bought in November 2013 for $465,000.

Attempts to locate the former owner were unsuccessful.

In 2010, Jessica Kisby and Craig Arno were arrested at the motel after going on a weeklong crime spree that included killing a 47-year-old North Bergen man. After they were found guilty, Arno was sentenced to 120 years in prison, while Kisby received 30 years.

The incidents at the motel could have a negative impact on people living in the area, said Sara Martino, an associate professor of psychology at Stockton University.

“People who live in the area could have secondary stress from the incidents, similar to PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder),” Martino said. “For some, that means having a fear of what is going to happen, and for others it means being hypervigilant to the area.”

Over the years, the site turned into a hub for illegal activity, including prostitution, Glassey said.

“The girls would stay there, and then they would be taken to Atlantic City, and some would bring guys back to service them. When I was deputy mayor, I was propositioned there,” Glassey said.

While the demolition of the motel might help raise the spirits of area residents, it also might have a negative impact on others, Martino said.

“Some people will be stronger for it, while for others it brings back that stress associated with the incidents,” she said.

Over the next month, the Golden Key and four other area motels will be demolished. The township purchased the motels with a $3 million grant from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, township Administrator Peter Miller said. The township paid $465,000 for the Golden Key.

Mayor James “Sonny” McCullough hopes the demolition will lead to redevelopment in the area. In 2009, the township approved a plan that included 20 goals to improve West Atlantic City by attracting private development that would maximize tax revenues and generate new ratables.

“We needed to move this forward,” the township’s longtime mayor said. “Getting the hotels down is just the first step — we want to redevelop the area.”

The plan called for zoning changes to prohibit certain operations, including motels, auto repair shops, schools and sex-oriented businesses. The goals of the new zoning requirements are to open up the region to things such as cultural centers, hotels, bars and taverns, and multifamily homes.

The 185-page township plan covers 34.4 acres along the north side of the Black Horse Pike between Naples Avenue and Jonathan’s Thorofare.

The motels in West Atlantic City were built in the mid-1950s, said June Sheridan, an Egg Harbor Township historian. They attracted a ton of visitors, because they were a cheaper alternative to staying in Atlantic City.

For Glassey, the hotels hold a special place in his heart.

“My father (Stan Glassey Sr.) was one of the contractors on the project when they were built,” Glassey said. “I remember going over to help him do some of the work. I would carry his toolbox for him.”

In the 1960s, the motels on the pike were the place to be, Glassey said. But as Atlantic City continued to develop with upscale hotels and casinos, the motels fell into disrepair.

“We’re all just glad to see the end of them,” Glassey said.

Contact: 609-272-7046

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Molly Jean Dilts, b. June 24, 1986

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