Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino announced today that Melvin Jovel, 21, of Elizabeth, who admitted murdering three Delaware State University students and attempting to murder a fourth, was sentenced to 245 years in state prison today by the Honorable Michael L. Ravin, Judge of the Superior Court.
Judge Ravin sentenced Jovel to three consecutive life sentences for the murders of Iofemi Hightower, 20, Dashon Harvey, 20, and Terrance Aeriel, 18, all of Newark. The judge also sentenced Jovel to an additional 20 years for the attempted murder of Natasha Aeriel, now 22.
“Although nothing can bring back these three promising young people, we believe the sentence imposed today by Judge Ravin is just given the horrific nature of the crimes committed by this defendant,’’ Acting Prosecutor Laurino said.
“Without provocation or cause he shot four defenseless young people on a beautiful August night as they gathered on a playground to listen to music. It is difficult to imagine anything more senseless,’’ Acting Prosecutor Laurino added.
Appearing before Judge Ravin earlier today, Assistant Prosecutor Romesh Sukhdeo asked that the sentence imposed by Judge Ravin contain a consecutive component given the nature and circumstances of the triple homicide.
“They were all killed by head shots with a .357 magnum,’’ said Sukhdeo. “A lengthy sentence is necessary because of the risk this defendant may commit other offenses, the sheer depravity of the crimes and the need to deter others,’’ Sukhdeo said.
On Sept. 21, Jovel pleaded guilty to the Aug. 4, 2007 murders and attempted murders of the four victims. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Jovel will not have to testify against any of the other defendants. In addition, robbery and conspiracy charges were dismissed.
All four victims were Newark residents preparing to return to Delaware State. Jovel admitted lining them up in the school yard and shooting them in the head. Natasha Aeriel was shot in the face and attacked with a machete but survived her injuries.
Assistant Prosecutor Thomas McTigue, who tried the case with Sukhdeo, said four other defendants are awaiting trial. The next trial is expected to begin on Feb. 1, 2011 in the case of Alexander Alfaro, according to McTigue.
Alfaro is the brother of Rodolfo Godinez, 27, of Newark. In July of this year, Godinez was sentenced to 245 years in prison in connection with the same crime after an Essex County jury convicted him on 17 counts, including three counts of murder, felony murder, attempted murder, robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and weapons offenses.
Trial dates have not yet been set for the other defendants — Shahid Baskerville, 18, of Morristown, Jose Carranza, 31, of Orange and Gerardo Gomez, 18, of Newark.
All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they have been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.