Man Convicted of Slaying Mother of Three and Trying to Disintegrate Her Remains; His Brother Convicted of Aiding in Coverup
Newark – Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II announced that an Essex County jury convicted Gualberto Lebron, 37, of Newark, for stalking and murdering Julia Vega, his ex-girlfriend, and mother of his children, then trying to disintegrate her remains by placing them in sealed garbage bags filled with chemicals. Vega was 30 when she was killed in 2018.
The jury also convicted Gualberto’s brother, Gilberto Lebron, 38, of Newark, of Desecrating Human Remains and Hindering Prosecution and Conspiracy for helping to destroy Vega’s remains and covering up the crime.
The charges stem from the spring of 2018. A history of domestic violence led to a May 5, 2018, strangulation aggravated assault, and sexual assault by Gualberto Lebron against Vega in her Newark apartment while the children were there. Vega escaped and was chased outside by Lebron, where he continued attempting to assault her until neighbors intervened. He fled before the police arrived and was a fugitive for several days.
After May 5, Gualberto Lebron increased his stalking and threats against Vega, threatening to kill her if she didn’t drop the charges against him. Friends and police encouraged Vega to move into a domestic violence shelter, but she declined, having recently gotten her own apartment with her children.
On May 9, 2018, while her children were in school, Vega went home on a lunch break from her job at a local daycare center to walk her dogs. Gualberto Lebron stalked her, broke into her apartment, and murdered her. He cleaned the apartment, carried her body out in a rolled-up rug, and loaded it into Vega’s minivan. He then drove away with her body. Vega was reported missing that evening, and a missing person investigation began.
During the next several days, Gualberto Lebron kept her body concealed as he scouted locations to hide her body. He enlisted the help of his brother to destroy her remains and other evidence, and they eventually stored her body inside heavy-duty trash bags filled with chemicals and sealed with duct tape. The bags containing her remains were found behind an abandoned house in Irvington on June 1, 2018. When her heavily damaged remains were found, the stem of a rose was recovered tucked under her arm inside the bag, and rubber bracelet from the Essex County Domestic Violence Response Team was still on her arm.
After a four-week trial, the jury took a little over one day of deliberation to find Gualberto Lebron guilty on 21 of 24 counts including Aggravated Murder, Burglary, Aggravated Assault, Aggravated Sexual Assault, Witness Tampering, Desecrating Human Remains, Conspiracy, and three counts of Endangering the Welfare of Children.
Assistant Prosecutor Adam B. Wells, who tried the case with Assistant Prosecutor Monica Calderon, said what Gualberto Lebron did to Julia Vega and her children was “without exaggeration – monstrous.”
“But the entire community including her friends, neighbors, and family, along with tireless, dedicated members of law enforcement, came together to get justice for her,” added Wells. “The jury was attentive and diligent throughout a long and disturbing trial, and returned a verdict that will provide some measure of justice and closure for Julia Vega and her children.”
Wells credited the investigators of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Task Force, notably lead Detective Donald Stabile, now retired, and said this case could not have come together without the assistance of the Newark Police Department Special Victim’s Unit, several units of the New Jersey State Police, the United States Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations CAST Unit.
Gualberto Lebron faces a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for the Aggravated Murder conviction. His brother, Gilberto Lebron, faces up to 10 years in prison for his conviction for Desecrating Human Remains. Sentencing is scheduled for April 3, 2023, before the Hon. Ronald D. Wigler, J.S.C., who presided over the trial.
Acting Prosecutor Stephens congratulated Assistant Prosecutor Wells on “his continued zealous advocacy,” and noted the collaboration between ECPO and its Essex law enforcement partners. “Both served to ensure that justice prevailed for this victim and her survivors.”