Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray announced today that Jose Carranza, 32, of Newark was found guilty by an Essex County jury of three counts of felony murder and four counts of first degree armed robbery.
He was acquitted of three counts of murder, sexual assault, one count of attempted murder, conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to commit murder and weapons charges.
“If it were up to me he would have been convicted on all 19 counts but I respect the verdict of the jury,’’ said Assistant Essex Romesh Sukhdeo. “We are satisfied with the verdict because it means Carranza faces life in prison when he is sentenced. He was found guilty of three counts criminal homicide and four counts of first degree robbery.’’
The Honorable Michael L. Ravin, J.S.C., who presided over the trial promptly revoked Carranza’s bail and set sentencing for April 9. Carranza is currently serving an eight year sentence for aggravated assault.
Jury deliberations began on February 7, 2012 and ended on February 14. The jury deliberated for five days before returning a verdict today.
During the night of August 4, 2007, Carranza and four other men robbed and murdered three Delaware State University college students and attempted to kill another at Mount Vernon School in Newark.
The victims were: Iofemi Hightower, 20, who was also mutilated by a machete; Dashon Harvey, 20; and Terrance Aeriel, 18, all of Newark. All three died of gunshot wounds to the head. Natasha Aeriel, also of Newark, was shot, and attacked with a knife, but survived.
Carranza, an undocumented Peruvian, was taken into custody on Thursday, August 9, 2007.
Four other defendants involved in the attack have already been convicted or entered guilty pleas in the case.
Rodolfo Godinez, 28, and his half brother, Alexander Alfaro, 21, both of Newark, were convicted at trial. Melvin Jovel, 22, of Elizabeth, entered a guilty plea. All three were sentenced to life. Shahid Baskerville, 20, of Morristown, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for testimony against Carranza. A sixth defendant, Gerardo Gomez, 19, is awaiting trial.
The charges against Gomez are accusations. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they plea guilty or are found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.