Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray announced today an Essex County jury convicted Alexander Alfaro, 20, of Newark of murder, felony murder, robbery, conspiracy and weapons charges in connection with the August 2007 triple homicide at the Mount Vernon school yard in Newark.
In all, the jury convicted Alfaro on 16 of 17 counts. He was found not guilty of the attempted murder of Natasha Aeriel, the lone surviving victim, and not guilty of the lesser included offense of aggravated assault.
When he is sentenced on May 19, Alfaro faces multiple life sentences. Alfaro is the third defendant to be found guilty in connection with the brutal attack on four Delaware State University students.
Iofemi Hightower, Dashon Harvey and Terrence Aeriel were lined up and shot in the back of the head execution style on Aug. 4, 2007. Hightower was also attacked with a machete. Natasha Aeriel, now 23, was shot and attacked with a machete but survived. She testified in the two trials.
The four had gathered in the playground to listen to music and hang out before heading back to college.
To date, Rodolfo Godinez, now 27, of Newark and his younger brother Alexander Alfaro, 20, also of Newark, have been tried and convicted. Another defendant, Melvin Jovel, pleaded guilty.
“On behalf of Prosecutor Carolyn Murray, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office is extremely gratified by the jury verdict in our 3rd schoolyard case, finding the defendant Alexander Alfaro guilty,’’ said Acting First Assistant Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino.
“We hope that he will join both of his other co-defendants, who are now serving multiple life sentences in state prison,’’ said Laurino. “As I have sadly said on two prior occasions, I hope that this verdict will give some small degree of solace to the families of Iofemi Hightower, Dashon Harvey, Terrence Aeriel and Natasha Aeriel.’’
Assistant Prosecutor Thomas McTigue, who tried the case with Assistant Prosecutor Romesh Sukhdeo, said, “The second trial posed different issues because of the defendant’s age and his claim that he was a victim of duress – a notion the jury ultimately rejected.’’
“Our work did not end today,” said Sukhdeo. “We will now move forward and prepare for the next trial which will probably take place in the fall.’’
Three other defendants are facing trial – Jose Carranza, now 32, of Newark; Gerardo Gomez, 18, of Newark; and Shahid Baskerville, 19, of Morristown.
Acting Prosecutor Murray commended all those who worked tirelessly to bring these cases to a successful conclusion, including Assistant Prosecutors McTigue and Sukhdeo, the investigators from the Newark Police Department and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, and law enforcement officers in other jurisdictions who have assisted.