Posted Wednesday, April 27th, 2016


The 20th anniversary of the opening of Deirdre’s House, a safe haven in Morris County for youngest victims of sexual and physical abuse, was commemorated today by the Morris County Freeholders in a ceremony attended by the family of the late Freeholder Jim O’Brien and his wife Georgia, who were instrumental in creating the center.

Deirdre's House 4.27.16

(l/r) Freeholders John Cesaro, Deborah Smith and Kathy DeFillippo, with Jim O’Brien, his wife Trish, son Joe and his wife, Courtney and daughter Reagan, Deirdre’s House Executive Director Maria Savettiere, and staff members

Recoiling from the brutal 1982 murder of their 25-year-old daughter, Deirdre O’Brien, the Mendham Township couple devoted themselves to the plight of crime victims, and brought special attention to the need for the protection of Morris County’s youngest victims with the 1996 opening of Deirdre’s House, across from the Morris County Courthouse in Morristown.

Then Gov. Christie Whitman officiated at the 1996 opening of Deirdre’s House.

“The loss of their daughter, Deirdre, is still an open wound in the heart of Morris County,’’ said current Freeholder Director Kathy DeFillippo. “But the O’Brien’s made sure that something very positive came out of a horrible tragedy.’’

“They called attention to crime victims in our society and led the fight to make sure that the voices of crime victims are heard,’’ said Freeholder Doug Cabana, the board’s liaison on public safety issues. “Through Deirdre’s House, they have helped the very youngest and most vulnerable crime victims — our children.’’

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Among those on hand today to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Deirdre’s House and to accept a resolution of thanks and continued support from the freeholders were Jim O’Brien, the son of Freeholder Jim O’Brien and younger brother of Deirdre O’Brien, and his wife Trish O’Brien; their son and daughter-in-law Joe and Court O’Brien, and their daughter Reagan.

The late Freeholder Jim O'Brien

The late Freeholder Jim O’Brien

Also attending were Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp, Morris County Sheriff Ed Rochford, Deirdre’s House Executive Director Maria Savettiere and members of her staff.

“The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office works very closely with Deirdre’s House to do everything possible to combat child sexual abuse and to ensure that our most vulnerable victims get the very best treatment and protection possible,’’ said Prosecutor Knapp. “Our partnership with Deirdre’s House is essential to that purpose,” he added.

Jim O’Brien spoke of the “great work” being done at Deirdre’s House and said his parents would be especially grateful for the efforts that have been made by Savettiere and her staff.

“The mission of Deirdre’s House is to insure that even though a child’s life may be altered by the abuse he or she have suffered, their life will not be forever defined by that abuse. The services we provide help child victims heal and go on to live happy successful lives,’’ said Maria Savettiere, who has run the facility for 13 years.

 Deirdre’s House plays a critical role in Morris County’s ability to address the needs of child victims of physical and sexual abuse. Deirdre’s House is the only site in Morris County were a child victim under the age of 12 can be interviewed, medically examined and treated, digitally recorded, and counseled in English or Spanish, all under one roof.


This non-threatening atmosphere at Deirdre’s House greatly contributes to the ability of the child to relax and more freely disclose the horrific details of the abuse, which is oftentimes embarrassing and deeply personal. Since 1996, Deirdre’s House has provided services to more than 24,000 children.

If Deirdre’s House did not exist, a child victim would first have to be interviewed and processed at a police facility, examined in a hospital emergency room, and counseled at yet another location, thus increasing the psychological and physical trauma and stress for an already badly traumatized child. All our services are provided free-of-charge.

History of Deirdre’s House

In 1982, at the age of 25, Deirdre was abducted, raped and murdered by a serial murderer. Her killer was caught, convicted and sentenced to two 30 year terms in state prison.

Freeholder Jim O'Brien at 1996 opening of Deirdre's House

Freeholder Jim O’Brien at 1996 opening of Deirdre’s House

In the winter of 1994, then Prosecutor Michael Murphy and Assistant Prosecutor Karin Kelly-Weisert approached the O’Brien family regarding the possibility of opening a Child Advocacy Center to serve the children of Morris County.

At the time, Deirdre’s father Jim O’Brien was a member of the Morris County Board of Freeholders and the president of the Statewide Coalition of Crime Victims. They presented a plan for a child advocacy center for abused children and asked Mr. O’Brien for help in securing a location for the center.

With the cooperation of the Freeholder Board, the county purchased the house at 8 Court St. in Morristown and gave a long term lease to the newly formed non-profit center. Shortly after, the Freeholders asked the O’Brien family to allow the center to be named after Deirdre in honor of their work on behalf of the victims of crime in New Jersey.

After securing $100,000 in much needed donations to renovate 8 Court St., the Center was opened in April of 1996.

For more on Deirdre’s House, visit: