Category: Freehold

Two Fatalities And Multiple People Injured In Route 9 Multi-Car Crash

July 4, 2022

FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP, NJ (MONMOUTH)–The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office reports that a multi-car crash has claimed the lives of two passengers and left two drivers severely injured in Freehold Township Sunday afternoon, according to Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey.

On Sunday July 3, 2022, at approximately 1:28 p.m., the Freehold Township Police Department responded to a report of a multi-vehicle crash near the intersection of Route 9 South southbound and Route 33 westbound. The subsequent investigation revealed that a 2019 Lexus NX, driven by a 74-year-old female from Manalapan, was travelling southbound on Route 9, when the vehicle side-swiped a 2015 black Lexus RX350, and then side-swiped a white 2019 Subaru Crosstrek, before rear-ending a 2017 black Honda CR-V. The black Honda CR-V then rear-ended a 2009 purple Scion TC.

As a result of the crash, one of the passengers in the Honda CR-V, a 52-year-old female from Marlboro, was pronounced deceased at the scene. A second passenger in the Honda CR-V, a 61-year-old male, also of Marlboro, succumbed to his injuries at a local hospital. The driver of the Honda CR-V, a 21-year-old male of Marlboro, was also taken to a local hospital and is in critical condition. The driver of the Lexus was taken to a local hospital with serious injuries. Other drivers and passengers sought medical attention for minor injuries.

The crash remains under investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, Monmouth County SCART and the Freehold Township Police Department.

Anyone who witnessed the crash or has information to assist the investigative team is urged to contact Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Nicolas Logothetis at 800-533-7443, or Freehold Township Police Department Patrolman Justin Nunno at 732-462-7908.



Hightstown, NJ Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for 2018 Roadside Slaying of Freehold Woman

May 3, 2022

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH) – The Mercer County man who fatally shot a Freehold woman as she drove along on a state highway – a crime that took place four years ago today – has been sentenced to life in prison, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Tuesday.       

Kader Mustafa, 40, will not become eligible for parole before reaching the age of 104, under the provisions of New Jersey’s No Early Release Act and the terms set down Monday by Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Vincent N. Falcetano, Jr.

Shortly before 11:45 p.m. on Thursday, May 3, 2018, members of the Freehold Township Police Department responded to a 911 call originating from a vehicle stopped along Route 33 West near the exit ramp for Halls Mill Road. At that location, officers found three occupants of the vehicle, a 1997 Mazda Protégé: 24-year-old Sciasia Calhoun, who had sustained a single gunshot wound to the head, and her boyfriend and 1-year-old daughter, both of whom were not physically harmed.  

Calhoun was rushed by Freehold First Aid, with the assistance of Monmouth-Ocean Hospital Service Corporation (MONOC), to nearby CentraState Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead approximately one hour later.

An intensive joint investigation by the MCPO Major Crimes Bureau and the Freehold Township Police Department, with significant assistance from the Manalapan Police Department, revealed that Mustafa was driving a 2005 Chevrolet Impala when he fired a single shot at Calhoun, after several minutes of following her vehicle, at one point even colliding with its rear bumper. Mustafa was apprehended at his cousin’s residence in Manalapan in the area of Oakland Mills Road at approximately 8:10 a.m. the morning after the shooting, when two handguns were recovered from the vehicle.

While recounting the facts of the case on Monday, Judge Falcetano noted that Sciasia and her loved ones were en route to Asbury Park on the night of the shooting when they suddenly realized that their vehicle’s headlights weren’t operational – only the high beams were working. They had already turned around and were heading back home when they encountered Mustafa. “Her last act,” Falcetano said, was to somehow safely pull over the vehicle to the side of the road, despite having been shot by a man he described as a “cauldron of rage” who was “marauding … aimlessly” that night, while armed. 

“This was completely random,” Falcetano said. “I don’t have enough words in my vocabulary to describe it.”

Several members of Calhoun’s immediate family, spanning three generations, made remarks in court before Monday’s sentencing was rendered. They described a “diamond in the rough” with ample ambition and a fierce independent streak, who stubbornly refused to let anyone help her learn how to ride a bicycle as a young child – despite bumps, bruises, and scratches piling up – until she had perfected it on her own.

“The defendant chose to randomly fire a shot and randomly kill a 24-year-old who had done absolutely nothing to him,” said MCPO Director of Investigations Christopher Decker, who represented the State at sentencing. “There’s nothing more depraved or heinous.”

Monday’s sentencing followed a multi-week trial that concluded in October 2021, when the jury convicted Mustafa on all six charges against him: first-degree Murder, second-degree Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose, two counts of second-degree Unlawful Possession of a Weapon, and two counts of third-degree Endangering Another Person. MCPO Investigation Division Director and Assistant Prosecutor John Loughrey, who has since retired, handled the prosecution.  



Million Dollar Replay Grand Prize Winner from Lawrenceville, NJ, Hamilton Man Wins 100K

$1,000,000  Ronald Demura Lawrenceville 

$100,000 Christopher Croux Hamilton 

April 29, 2022

New Jersey Lottery’s Million Dollar Replay Grand Prize Drawing was held today at Caesars Atlantic City Hotel and Casino, where more than $1,500,000 in prizes were awarded to our lucky players. Today’s top prize winner was Ronald Demura of Lawrenceville in Mercer County. The winner stood up in shock as his name was called out as New Jersey Lottery’s newest millionaire. Fourteen other Lottery players also received prizes ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 as part of the Grand Prize Drawing.

Throughout 2021, New Jersey Lottery players from all over the state submitted their non-winning instant tickets online for a second chance to win big prizes. Each quarter, 100 names were selected and awarded a $250 prize, as well as entry into today’s Grand Prize Drawing. An additional 19 raffle prizes were awarded to Million Dollar Replay finalists in attendance at the event today: seven $1,000 drawings, seven $300 Scratch-Offs drawings, and five gift basket drawings (containing $200 in Scratch-Offs plus Lottery swag). In addition to these drawings, there were 16 prizes drawn for the livestream sweepstakes open to the public, including one gift basket and 15 $200 Scratch-Off prizes. Guests also enjoyed the photo booth and prize wheels that provided many other opportunities to win.

New Jersey Lottery Executive Director James Carey, who assisted in the drawing, said, “I am thrilled to hold our 11th annual Million Dollar Replay.  After last year’s event was virtual due to the pandemic, we are excited to be back in-person.  Being able to add the excitement of minting a new millionaire makes it even better.”

Master of Ceremonies Steve Trevelise of NJ101.5 entertained the audience with jokes and witty banter throughout the event by interacting with the guests and prizewinners. Host Lauren Berman, conducted the drawing for the semi-finalists with the help of Lottery staff. The entire drawing process was completed under the observation of Mercadien, P.C. Certified Public Accountants.

The excitement of winning was already in the air when after Host Lauren Berman directed attention to the Big Spin wheel located next to the stage. The Big Spin game is New Jersey Lottery’s revolutionary new Scratch-Off that  allows  players  the  opportunity  to  extend  their  play  beyond  the  paper  ticket  to online for a chance to spin a large mechanical wheel to win up to $300,000. Two players won an opportunity to spin the wheel. Both contestants won $50,000 each. For information on The Big Spin Scratch-Off ticket and jackpot, visit our website at: https://www.njlottery.com/en-us/scratch-offs/01728.html

Grand Prize Winner Story:

Ronald Demura is a regular Lottery player, who plays consistently at the same two retailers near his home. He came to the Million Dollar Replay hoping to win something and was in shock when his name was called to win the million dollar prize. His wife and the rest of the room cheered as he began walking toward the winners’ table. Saying that he was ecstatic is an understatement. Ronald has been retired for a few years, enjoying life with his family. Now he will get to pay off his house and, hopefully, his wife can join him in retirement.


PrizeNameCity/State
$1,000,000 Ronald DemuraLawrenceville 
$100,000 Christopher CrouxHamilton 
$100,000 Thach HieuCamden 
$50,000 Rick Bunnell Rockaway
$50,000 Kevin LindholmWoodbridge 
$50,000 Richard San AndresFreehold 
$25,000 Daniel DesantoIselin 
$25,000 Mike SeminaraLedgewood 
$25,000 Patrick SweeneyRahway 
$25,000 James WelshmanBayville 
$10,000Andrea Giedosh Pitman 
$10,000 Dwayne AngleroCream Ridge 
$10,000 Kenneth OliverRoselle 
$10,000 Michelle SperberBeachwood 
$10,000Linda Handel Clifton 


Two Teens Killed and 3 Other Teens Injured in Tragic Route 9 Crash

A 15-year-old from Allentown High School and a 17-year-old from Freehold Regional High School District were pronounced deceased.

April 20, 2022

FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP, NJ (MONMOUTH)–A single-car crash has claimed the life of two passengers in Freehold Township Tuesday evening, announced Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey.

On Tuesday April 19, 2022, at approximately 10:38 p.m., the Freehold Township Police Department responded to a report of an overturned vehicle. The subsequent investigation revealed that a 2004 Chevrolet Malibu, driven by a 17-year-old male from Howell, was travelling southbound on Route 9, in the vicinity of 3468 Rt. 9, when the vehicle changed lanes and the driver lost control of the vehicle, causing the vehicle to spin out. The vehicle ran off the road to the right side, striking a curb and several concrete bollards. The vehicle then rolled over and came to a final stop in front of 3468 Rt. 9.

As a result of the crash, two of the vehicle’s passengers, a 15-year-old male from Allentown, and a 17-year-old male from Manalapan, were pronounced deceased. The driver and two remaining passengers were taken to a local hospital. The driver and one passenger, a 15-year-old Manalapan girl, were treated for minor injuries and subsequently released; one other passenger, a 17-year-old Allentown male, remains held pending medical observation.

The crash remains under investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, Monmouth County SCART and Freehold Township Police Department.

Anyone who witnessed the crash or has information to assist the investigative team is urged to contact Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Brian Boryszewski at 800-533-7443, or Freehold Township Police Department Officer Alexander Fay at 732-462-7908.


Dear UFRSD Community,

This morning, we received news of a tragic accident. Last night, one of our Allentown High School students was killed in a car accident. We also know that another student from an area high school was also killed. There were three survivors of the accident, one of which was from AHS.

News like this is the worst type of news for anyone to hear. Today, we are thinking of the parents, siblings and family of all families involved. Any support we can offer our families, we will.

In the meantime, we know that this can be an enormous challenge for students to process and understand; at times, it’s even hard for adults to comprehend a tragedy like this. Therefore, today and tomorrow, we are offering counseling services to students and staff. Today, we will have counselors available from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. and tomorrow (Thursday) from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. at Allentown High School (go to the main entrance).

If anyone needs any special help and support, please reach out directly to Mrs. Embley at embleyc@ufrsd.net.

The UFRSD will do whatever we can to support our students, staff and the families involved in this accident. We will keep everyone updated as information becomes available.

My best,

Mark Guterl

Superintendent of Schools


Bradley Beach Man Charged in Death of Fellow Inmate from Ocean Grove

April 17, 2022

FREEHOLDA 29-year-old male inmate of the Monmouth County Correctional Institution has been charged in the death of a fellow inmate, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Sunday.

Evan Raczkiewicz, of Bradley Beach, is charged with first-degree Aggravated Manslaughter in the death of Daniel Ferrara.  An investigation began after Ferrara, 49 of Ocean Grove, was found unresponsive in the kitchen area of jail at around 5:20 a.m. Medical staff began life-saving efforts; however, Ferrara succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at 6:03 a.m.

A joint investigation was immediately launched by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and investigators from the Monmouth County Correctional Institution.  As a result of the investigation, it was determined that Raczkiewicz had struck Ferrara multiple times prior to his death.

The incident remains under investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office. Anyone who has information to assist the investigative team is urged to contact Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Jason Gold at 732-431-7160 x4025.

If convicted, the defendant faces up to 30 years imprisonment subject to the No Early Release Act. 

The case is being prosecuted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutors Caitlin Sidley and Joseph Cummings.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendants have all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.


Freehold Teacher Wins $25,000 Milken Award, Honored as One of America’s Top Teachers

Taylor Matyas, a former Freehold Township School District student, returns to teach in her community

April 1, 2022

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–In a surprise assembly earlier today, Taylor Matyas, an instructional coach at Laura Donovan Elementary School, received a $25,000 Milken Educator Award for her excellence as a student-and-teacher mentor who models collaboration, data-driven teaching, and creatively using technology to make education more engaging for her students.

Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley and New Jersey Acting Commissioner of Education Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan surprised Matyas with the honor before cheering students, colleagues, state and local officials, and the media. Matyas is the first-ever recipient in Freehold and among more than 60 educators nationwide to receive the recognition during the 2021-2022 school year. She is one of only two recipients in New Jersey this year.

Hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching,” the Milken Educator Awards celebrate, elevate and activate the American teaching profession and inspire young, capable people to join it.

“Each year, the Milken Educator Awards team searches the country for think-outside-the-box educators like Taylor,” said Dr. Foley, who herself is a 1994 Milken Educator from Indiana. “Her creativity in the classroom, collaboration with students and parents, and dedication to using data to bring best practices to life for her students are what make her our latest Milken Educator Award recipient. We are proud to celebrate her today!”

The Milken Educator Award is not a lifetime achievement honor. Recipients are heralded while early to mid-career for what they have achieved — and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities inherent in the Award.

“We commend Mrs. Matyas on this well-deserved recognition,” said Dr. Allen-McMillan, New Jersey Acting Commissioner of Education. “She immerses herself into the curricula, then identifies numerous access points for students to make meaning of the content prior to personalizing their learning so they have the confidence to succeed. Ms. Matyas is representative of all engaging and passionate educators who strive daily to improve student outcomes.”

Oprah, a longtime education advocate, shared her congratulations to this year’s winners in a video message shared earlier this year thanking “the most incredible educators around the country” and acknowledging her deep appreciation for the “tireless work” they do.

More about Taylor Matyas:

Models Mentoring: Matyas prioritizes connection and relationship-building in Freehold Township School District, with both the fourth graders she taught until this year and the teachers she now works with. Matyas mentors and supports Donovan’s teachers through modeling, coaching and professional development. Focused on improving and accelerating student achievement through quality curriculum and instruction, she observes in classrooms, collaborates with staff on collecting and analyzing data, researches best practices and contributes to curriculum.

Prioritizes Professional Development: A former student in the Freehold Township School district herself, Matyas hosted pre-certification teachers in her class and opened her doors to staff from Freehold Township and other districts. On the district curriculum team, Matyas has designed integrated ELA units and project-based learning cross-curricular units that push students to think critically, collect and analyze information, ask questions, and tackle real-world issues. When she taught at nearby Joseph J. Catena School, she served on the STEAM committee, planning design challenges and demonstrating robots, 3D printers and green screen technology. Matyas also serves on the district data team and technology vetting committee. As the district transitioned to standards-based reporting, Matyas designed standards-tracking protocols and parent communication tools, which are now used across Freehold Township. At district EdCamp days, Matyas facilitated professional development on blended learning, Freckle Math, personalized learning plans and student learning portfolios. In cooperation with High Point University, she delivered a webinar to North Carolina teachers on blended learning, using print and video examples from her classroom practices.

Uses Technology to Enhance Education: At Catena, remote learning during the pandemic brought challenges, but Matyas used technology to make both academic and social-emotional learning seamless and fun. She arranged virtual lunch tables, reading circles and writing discussion groups using Zoom breakout rooms. Family members, pets and beloved stuffed animals joined the class’s online morning meetings and weekly dance parties. Students “visited” a turtle hospital while studying animals and biomes during one of Matyas’ virtual field trips. Every Friday, Matyas asked students to submit Flipgrid videos reflecting on successes for the past week and setting goals for the days ahead. Matyas’ students trusted her and were eager to be their best selves in her class; it’s no surprise that they demonstrated consistent growth and top district and state assessment results in ELA and math.

Encourages Student-Led Learning: Matyas blends whole-group, small-group and individualized instruction across each day. In her classroom at Catena, students led their own learning using data from lessons and formative assessments, as well as digital content providers like Freckle, Achieve3000 and NoRedInk. Effective best practices, including mini-lessons, direct instruction, reading and writing workshops, guide reading and math, and cooperative groups helped ensure engagement. Matyas used various modes of instruction and learning experiences to meet students’ needs through targeted intervention and enrichment, including digital content providers, adaptive learning programs and project-based learning. During “Genius Hour,” students researched and pursued subjects that resonated and inspired them: ship design, fashion, video production, history. Pupils used this time to create prosthetic limbs, teach themselves to play musical instruments, and design skateboards.

Commitment Extends Beyond School: At Catena, Matyas led extracurricular programs before and after school, including study skills, Lego and computer clubs, and the school news broadcast, helping students plan scripts, take photos, and record and edit weekly programs. In her popular Elementary Entrepreneurs program, third, fourth and fifth graders designed products to sell at a holiday event, raising more than $2,300 for a local pediatric cancer organization, in memory of a Catena student who had passed away a few months earlier.

Education: Matyas earned a bachelor’s in elementary and special education in 2013 from the University of Delaware.

More information about Matyas, plus links to photos and video from today’s assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at: https://www.milkeneducatorawards.org/educators/view/taylor-matyas

More about the Milken Educator Awards: “The future belongs to the educated.”

Along with the financial prize, Milken Educator Award recipients join the national Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,800 top teachers, principals and specialists. The network serves as a rich resource for fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others dedicated to excellence in education.

·       The honorees will also attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to increase their impact on K-12 education. In addition, they will learn about how to become involved in the Milken Friends Forever (MFFs) mentoring program, in which freshman Milken Educators receive personalized coaching and support from a Milken Educator veteran on ways to elevate their instructional practice and take an active role in educational leadership, policy and practice.

·       Over the years, more than $140 million in funding, including $70 million for the individual cash awards, has been devoted to the overall Milken Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers. 

·       Veteran Milken Educators frequently go on to serve in leadership roles at state, national and international levels. 

·       “We find you. You don’t find us!” Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Awards initiative has no formal nomination or application process. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then reviewed by blue ribbon panels in each state. The most exceptional candidates are recommended for the award, with final selection made by the Milken Family Foundation. 

·       The $25,000 cash award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. For instance, some have spent the funds on their children’s or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children. 

To get regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events or to watch the award events unfold, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook (@MilkenEducatorAwards), Twitter (@Milken), YouTube (/MilkenAward), Instagram (MilkenFamilyFdn), and TikTok (@MilkenAward).

For more information, visit MilkenEducatorAwards.org




Florida Man Admits to Posing as a Modeling Agent to Manipulate Minor Living in Brielle to Send Him Sexually Explicit Images

February 23, 2022

FREEHOLD – A Florida man has admitted to falsely portraying himself as a modeling agent in order to manipulate a minor into sending him sexually explicit images and videos of herself, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Wednesday.

Joseph Germain, 31, of Casselberry, Florida (Seminole County), late last week pleaded guilty to first-degree Manufacturing Child Sexual Abuse Materials and second-degree Distribution of Child Sexual Abuse Materials. Sentencing in the case has been scheduled for Friday, May 13, at which time Germain will face a term of eight years in state prison, subject to New Jersey’s No Early Release Act (NERA), meaning a minimum of 85 percent of the sentence must be served before the possibility of parole. He will also be required to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law and remain subject to Parole Supervision for Life.

The investigation into Germain’s activities was initiated by the Brielle Police Department, which determined that several years ago, the defendant created a false online persona, claiming to be “Alex” from a company called “Elite Model Management,” using the email address alexxcaveelite@gmail.com.

In 2017, the investigation determined, Germain contacted a juvenile living in Brielle, claiming he wanted to help her create a modeling portfolio and promising a $50,000 contract. After the victim agreed, Germain convinced her to electronically send him numerous photos and videos of herself in sexually explicit poses.

During the course of their interactions, the victim openly indicated to Germain that she did not feel comfortable sending the photos and videos due to her age, but he persisted in demanding additional files. At times, Germain sent her fake screenshots from an employee purportedly named “Cassandra,” promising to release the money once the victim’s “portfolio” was complete. 

The victim never received any payments – but did ultimately begin receiving text messages from multiple phone numbers claiming to be employees of “Elite Model Management,” threatening to post her photos and videos to the Internet unless she sent additional explicit material. Eventually, some of the videos did make their way online.

The investigation determined that Germain was responsible for the various threatening texts – and for posting the videos online. Germain was arrested in Florida in 2019 and extradited back to New Jersey for prosecution.

“This investigation left us strongly convinced of the very real possibility that there may be additional victims who have yet to come forward,” Acting Prosecutor Linskey said. “To any remaining victims who may be out there, I would just say this: what was done to you wasn’t just wrong, deceitful, and cruel – it was criminal. We urge you to come forward and speak with us, and offer the assurance that you will be treated with the utmost dignity and respect. We need your assistance to ensure that justice is served.” 

If anyone feels that they or someone they know was a victim of a similar or identical scam, they are urged to contact Detective Ryan Maxsiell of the Brielle Police Department at 848-232-5016, or the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Bureau at 732-431-7160, Ext. 7731.

Anyone who feels the need to remain anonymous but has information about a crime can submit a tip to the Monmouth County Crime Stoppers by calling their confidential telephone tipline at 1-800-671-4400; by downloading and using the free P3 Tips mobile app (available on iOS and Android – https://www.p3tips.com/1182), by calling 800-671-4400 or by going to the website at www.monmouthcountycrimestoppers.com.

The case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Joseph Cummings of the MCPO Special Victims Bureau.

Germain is represented by Tara Breslow-Testa, Esq., with offices in Freehold and Red Bank.  



Colts Neck Man Arrested in Connection with Series of Bank Robberies

December 20, 2021

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–A Colts Neck man has been arrested and charged with committing a series of three bank robberies in various local municipalities over the course of a little more than a month, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Monday.

Conor Kavanagh, 29, is charged with three counts of first-degree Armed Robbery.

An investigation was initiated immediately after the first bank robbery, which took place shortly after 1:15 p.m. on Saturday, November 13 at the PNC Bank inside the Stop & Shop supermarket on Route 36 in Keyport. At that time, a man later identified as Kavanagh approached a teller window, passed over a note indicating he was in possession of a weapon, and made off with a quantity of cash, leaving the scene in a green Toyota pickup truck.

At approximately 4 p.m. on Tuesday, December 14, a bank robbery occurred at the Wells Fargo branch on Newman Springs Road in the Lincroft section of Middletown. The bank robbery was committed in identical fashion to the earlier one in Keyport, with the suspect wearing similar clothing, and he left the scene in a green Toyota pickup truck.

Three days later, on Friday, December 17, the Wells Fargo branch on Route 36 in Eatontown was robbed. Again, a suspect passed a note demanding money, indicating that he was in possession of a weapon.

Following the bank robbery in Middletown, Detectives from the Middletown Police Department developed information that led to Kavanagh to being identified as a potential suspect. After the bank robbery in Eatontown, Middletown Detectives and assisting members of the FBI observed Kavanagh driving a green pickup truck that matched the description of the vehicle used in the earlier bank robberies, and placed him under arrest for unrelated charges.

Detectives searched the pickup truck and located proceeds from the Eatontown bank robbery and the clothing the suspect was seen wearing on surveillance footage. They also located information pertaining to a storage unit in Shrewsbury, and a search of that location revealed proceeds from the Keyport and Middletown bank robberies.

Additionally, a search of the cell phone Kavanagh was using contained evidence of online searches for local bank branches.

Kavanagh was lodged in the Monmouth County Correctional Institution (MCCI) pending a first appearance and detention hearing, to take place in Monmouth County Superior Court.

The Prosecutor’s Office would like to thank its partners with the Eatontown, Keyport, and Middletown police departments, as well as members of the FBI’s Newark office, for their invaluable assistance in this investigation.

This case is being prosecuted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Stephanie Dugan. Information regarding Kavanagh’s legal representation was not immediately available.

Convictions on first-degree criminal charges are commonly punishable by terms of 10 to 20 years in state prison.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law. 


Tinton Falls Man Found Guilty for 2017 Endangering Welfare of a Child, Invasion of Privacy

December 16, 2021

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH) – A Tinton Falls man was found guilty by a Monmouth County Jury in connection with the 2017 possession and distribution of child sexual abuse materials and invasion of privacy, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Friday.

Robert Mack, 35, of Tinton Falls was convicted of second degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child, Distribution of Child Sexual Abuse Material, third degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child, Possession of Child Sexual Abuse Material and third degree Invasion of Privacy.

A 2017 investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, along with NJ ICAC Task Force and the Tinton Falls Police Department revealed that Mack was downloading and sharing child sexual abuse materials from a computer located at his residence in Tinton Falls. Mack was also in possession of hard drives containing child sexual abuse materials. Further investigation concluded that Mack also had videos of an adult female with her intimate parts exposed without her permission.

Mack was indicted in October 2018.

Mack faces more than 10 years in a New Jersey State Prison. Mack must also register for Megan’s Law, he will be under Parole Supervision for Life and will have Internet Restrictions when he is sentenced by Monmouth County Superior Court by Judge Lourdes Lucas on February 14, 2022. This case is being handled by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Stephanie Dugan. Mack is being represented by Michael Chazen, Esq., of Freehold.



Improving the Patient Transport Experience: Sweet New Rides for Unterberg Children’s Hospital Patients

December 14, 2021

LONG BRANCH, NJ (MONMOUTH)–The Unterberg Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center (MMC) has a fun new way to transport their young patients to procedures in luxury style.

Thanks to a generous donation from the Freehold Township High School Football and Cheer Program, a fleet of luxury mini cars that includes a Mercedes, Bentley and Lamborghini will allow children to “drive” from their hospital beds to a treatment room or from a preoperative bed to the operating room, undoubtedly making the journey less stressful for pediatric patients.

“This is a fun distraction that we believe will certainly help reduce some stress for our young patients, and we are so thankful to the Freehold Township Football and Cheer Program for this generous and thoughtful donation,” said Jonathan Teitelbaum, M.D., Interim Chair of Pediatrics and Section Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology. Dr. Teitelbaum notes that the children will feel like they are driving the cars, which are actually controlled by a staff member via remote control.

Freehold Township High School Football and Cheer Program coordinator Audra Whisten, who traveled to MMC on December 9 with her son, Nick, a sophomore and member of the football team, said that the team raised money to purchase the electric cars, and received a $1,000 donation toward their fund-raising from the Ryan O’Donoghue Memorial Foundation. The Foundation was started in memory of Freehold Township High School graduate Ryan Fintan O’Donoghue, who died April 13, 2020 at the age of 19.

Audra had previously traveled with members of the Football and Cheer Program on November 21 to join the annual toy run to benefit The Unterberg Children’s Hospital coordinated by the Blue Knights NJ XV and Jersey Shore HOGs motorcycle groups. Additionally, they contributed to the cash donation made by each rider that benefits The Comprehensive Cystic Fibrosis Center at The Unterberg Children’s Hospital. The Cystic Fibrosis Center — which includes both pediatric and adult programs — is accredited by the National Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and is designated by the State of New Jersey as a referral center for Cystic Fibrosis Newborn Screening and has been designated as a Therapeutic Development Center by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Therapeutic Development Network.



Freehold, NJ Man Admits Role in Distribution of Cocaine and Firearms Trafficking Conspiracy

December 3, 2021

TRENTON, N.J. – A Monmouth County, New Jersey, man today admitted distributing cocaine in Monmouth County and conspiring to illegally sell firearms, including multiple handguns and a semi-automatic rifle, in and around Monmouth and Ocean counties, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.

Enrique Quijada, 24, aka “El Enano 13,” aka “Kike,” of Freehold, New Jersey, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Anne E. Thompson to a superseding information charging him with one count of conspiracy to engage in firearms trafficking, one count of possession of a firearm by an alien unlawfully present in the United States, and one count of distribution of cocaine.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From May 2020 through September 2020, Manuel Espinosa-Ozoria, Waldin Espinosa-Ozoria, Enrique Quijada, Javier Rodriguez-Valpais, and Jacquelyn DeJesus were members of a gun trafficking conspiracy that spanned from Florida to New Jersey. DeJesus allegedly assisted Manuel Espinosa-Ozoria – the alleged leader of the conspiracy – by acting as a “straw purchaser” of firearms in Florida. Manuel Espinosa-Ozoria and DeJesus then transported the firearms from Florida to Monmouth County, where members of the conspiracy, including Quijada, sold the firearms to individuals working at the direction and supervision of the FBI. Rodriguez-Valpais sold a .223 caliber semi-automatic rifle to Quijada, who in turn sold the rifle to an individual working at the direction and supervision of the FBI. In addition to gun trafficking, Quijada admitted selling cocaine to an individual working at the direction and supervision of the FBI.

Three other members of the gun trafficking conspiracy – Javier Rodriguez-Valpais, Waldin Espinosa-Ozoria, and Jacquelyn DeJesus – previously have pleaded guilty in connection with this case. The charges against Manuel Espinosa-Ozoria remain pending.

The count of conspiracy to engage in firearms trafficking carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The count of possession of a firearm by an alien unlawfully present in the United States carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The court of distribution of cocaine carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and $1 million fine. Quijada’s sentencing is scheduled for April 5, 2022.

Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the FBI, Newark Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr., with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. She also thanked the FBI Tampa Division, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Newark and Tampa Field Divisions, and the Freehold Borough, New Jersey, police department for their assistance in the investigation.

In July 2021 the U.S. Department of Justice launched five cross-jurisdictional strike forces to help reduce gun violence by disrupting illegal firearms trafficking in key regions across the country. Leveraging existing resources, the regional strike forces will better ensure sustained and focused coordination across jurisdictions and help stem the supply of illegally trafficked firearms from source cities, through other communities, and into five key market regions: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area/Sacramento Region and Washington, D.C. According to gun trace data, a significant number of firearms recovered in the New York/northern New Jersey area originate from outside the area. The new strike force will help ensure sustained and focused coordination between law enforcement and prosecutors in the New York/northern New Jersey area with their counterparts in those other locations.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ian D. Brater of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division in Trenton.

For the defendant whose charges remain pending, the charges and allegations are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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Defense counsel: S. Emile Lisboa IV Esq., Hackensack, New Jersey


Asbury Park Man Indicted for Two Home Invasions, Sexual Assault and Possession of Weapons for Unlawful Purpose

December 2, 2021

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)A Monmouth County Grand Jury has returned a 13-count indictment against an Asbury Park man for 2 home invasions which occurred in the same town, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced.

On November 30, 2021, a Monmouth County Grand Jury indicted Shawn Connolly, 34, in relation to two home invasions in the City of Asbury Park, where the defendant also resides.  Connolly was indicted for 2 counts of first degree Armed Robbery, 2 count of first degree Aggravated Sexual Assault, 2 counts of second degree Burglary, 2 counts of third degree Terroristic Threats, 3 counts of third degree Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose, and 2 counts of fourth degree Unlawful Possession of a Weapon.

On September 14, 2021, at approximately 5:27 am, members of the Asbury Park Police Department responded to a residence in the city in response to an open 911 line. Upon arrival, Asbury Park police learned that the victims suddenly awoke to Connolly in their home with a knife in his hand threatening to harm them.   During the course of the robbery, one of the victims was sexually assaulted by Connolly. The Asbury Park Police Department found Connolly still at the scene when they arrived and he was placed under arrest.

While this investigation was still underway, the Asbury Park Police Department received another report from an additional victim that her home had been broken into earlier that same morning at approximately 2:30 a.m.  This victim reported that she awoke to a man threatening her with a knife. Connolly was identified as the suspect in this home invasion as well.

If convicted, the defendant is facing up to 20 years in state prison on each count of Armed Robbery as well as the Aggravated Sexual Assault, up to 10 years state prison on each count of Burglary, up to 5 years state prison for each count of Terroristic Threats and Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose and up to 18 months state prison for each count of Unlawful Possession of a Weapon.  Additionally, he would be subject to Parole Supervision for Life and would be required to register under Megan’s Law.

The defendant remains incarcerated.

Defendant is currently represented by John M. Murphy, III, Esq., of Staten Island, New York.  The case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Danielle Zanzuccki.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendants have all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.



Nearly 600 Firearms Collected as Result of Twin Gun Buybacks

November 23, 2021

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–A combined total of nearly 600 firearms have been collected for destruction as the result of a pair of gun buybacks hosted by the Prosecutor’s Office and partner agencies over the last month, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Tuesday.

Monmouth County was one of nine counties statewide to host separate gun buybacks across the state on Saturday, October 23; as a result, a total of 360 firearms were collected at the Second Baptist Church of Asbury Park, including 159 handguns, 133 rifles and shotguns, and three assault weapons.

Prompted by the healthy demand, a second event was held this past Saturday at the Bethel AME Church in Freehold; as a result, a total of 234 more firearms, including 144 handguns, 67 rifles and shotguns, and two assault weapons were collected.

Between the two events, more than $66,000 was paid out to participating citizens turning in 594 unwanted weapons.

“It’s abundantly clear that these gun buyback events are both popular and effective, and we plan to continue hosting them in the years to come,” Acting Prosecutor Linskey said. “Every last firearm turned in is a firearm that will never be used to harm someone.”

Saturday’s event was co-sponsored by the Prosecutor’s Office, the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, under the leadership of Sheriff Shaun Golden; the Freehold Borough Police Department, under the leadership of Chief Craig W. Dispenza; the Freehold Township Police Department, under the leadership of Chief George K. Baumann; and the Bethel AME Church, under the leadership of the Rev. Ronald L. Sparks.

The Asbury Park event was co-sponsored by MCPO, the Monmouth County Board of County Commissioners, the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, the Monmouth County Police Chiefs Association, and the Asbury Park Police Department.

The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General coordinated the Oct. 23 gun buybacks, which made history – Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck announced several days later that nearly 3,000 firearms were turned at sites across the state that day, making it the most successful single-day event of its kind in state history. Thousands more firearms were turned in during gun buybacks held across the state in previous years.

The gun buybacks in Asbury Park and Freehold marked Monmouth County’s first such events since 2017.


18-County Indictment Against Man Charged With Soliciting Illicit Photos And Videos Of Teenage Girl, Then Distributing To Family Members In Retaliation

October 22, 2021

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–A Monmouth County Grand Jury has returned an 18-count indictment against a man charged with soliciting illicit photos and videos from a teenage girl, then distributing them to members of her family in retaliation for her threatening to break off contact with him, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Friday.

David Lopez, 38, of Jersey City is charged with first-degree Manufacturing Child Sexual Abuse Materials, five counts of second-degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child via Distribution of Child Sexual Abuse Materials, three counts of third-degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child, single counts of third-degree Making Terroristic Threats, third-degree Criminal Coercion, and third-degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child via Possession of Child Sexual Abuse Materials; and six counts of fourth-degree Cyber Harassment.

An investigation by the Keansburg Police Department that grew to also involve members of the Prosecutor’s Office revealed that Lopez had made contact with the victim via social media sometime prior to August 2020, and thereafter asked her to send him sexually explicit photos and videos.

After several such exchanges, the investigation revealed, the victim indicated that she preferred to cease communications with Lopez – who responded by sending some of the photos and videos to no fewer than half a dozen of her family members, including children as young as 11. In addition, Lopez allegedly threatened to harm the victim’s family, threatened to have other individuals harm them, threatened to burn down their house, and told her he could make her life “a living hell.”

Lopez was arrested at his home on August 25, 2020, after which he was released on home detention and ordered to have no contact with the victim and no Internet access while the criminal case against him remained pending.

Anyone with additional information about Lopez’s activities is being asked to contact Keansburg Police Department Detective Lt. Bryan King at 732-787-0600.

Convictions on first-degree criminal charges can result in terms of 10 to 20 years in state prison, while second-degree crimes can yield penalties of 5 to 10 years.

This case is being handled by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Ryan Lavender. Lopez is being represented by Joshua Hood, Esq., with an office in Freehold.  

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.  


Ocean State Job Lot Opens New Store in Freehold, NJ

Discount Retailer Opens 6th New Jersey Store in Former Toys”R”Us Location

October 19, 2021

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–Ocean State Job Lot (OSJL), the region’s premier discount retail chain with store locations across the Northeast, is pleased to announce the opening today of its 147th store, its sixth in New Jersey, at 600 Trotters Way, Freehold. The store is across from the Freehold Raceway Mall and is the 11th Toys“R”Us OSJL has purchased and opened since 2017.

This 44,784 sq. ft. location restores vibrancy to the formerly vacant retail space. Nearly 50 full- and part-time associates have been hired for the store, which will offer customers a big, bright shopping space. “We’re looking forward to sharing Ocean State Job Lot’s unique shopping experience with our new neighbors in Freehold,” said Jeff Greene, Store Team Leader, Ocean State Job Lot. “From seasonal items and home essentials, including fall lawn clean-up supplies, to pantry staples, paper goods, holiday wrapping, and a wide array of cleaning products, Ocean State Job Lot offers unbeatable prices and selection.”

As part of its Three Square Meals program, the Ocean State Job Lot Charitable Foundation (OSJLCF) will make a donation of non-perishable food items to Fulfill, the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. In addition, a pallet of food will be donated to Freehold Open Door Food Pantry as part of the OSJLCF’s Pallets to Pantries program. Lastly, a $500 OSJL gift card will be provided to Freehold’s All Fur Love Animal Rescue, a donation made possible through the OSJLCF’s To The Rescue initiative to aid animal welfare organizations.

Shoppers throughout New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania know Ocean State Job Lot for its Crazy Deals, Insider Club, fantastic prices, friendly customer service, and wide range of merchandise.

Ocean State Job Lot has made its mark in the discount-retail segment through opportunistic buying, which allows it to offer a wide selection of first-quality name brands and closeout merchandise at unbelievable prices. Shoppers find an ever-changing array of household goods, apparel, pet supplies, seasonal products (such as holiday, lawn and garden supplies, heating and cooling), kitchen pantry staples and a broad offering of gourmet and international specialty foods.

Store hours are currently 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. every day.


Long Branch Woman Sentenced To 35 Years In Prison For Sexual Assault Of A Toddler

October 18, 2021

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–A Long Branch woman has been sentenced to 35 years in state prison for planning and carrying out the sexual assault of a toddler with an accomplice a little more than four years ago, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Monday.

Olga Diaz, 35, must serve 33½ years of the sentence before becoming eligible for parole, in accordance with New Jersey’s Jessica Lunsford Act and No Early Release Act, under the terms set down Friday by Monmouth County Superior Court Judge David F. Bauman.

The sentencing marked the culmination of a case developed via joint investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and Long Branch Police Department, beginning on Friday, June 16, 2017 – when a man walked into city police headquarters to report that he had just witnessed two individuals committing sexual acts upon a child, spotted through a window of a Seaview Avenue apartment unit.

Diaz was arrested later that same day, while pulling out of her driveway. Diaz’s co-defendant, 37-year-old Mauricio Leon of Bloomfield, was located a week later with the assistance of members of the U.S. Marshals Service and arrested in Fort Lee.

During her plea allocution, Diaz admitted that she and Leon planned the sexual attack via text message, further admitting that she took nude photographs of the child the day before the sexual assault and took a separate video of herself sexually assaulting the child hours before the pair sexually assaulted her together – sending both the images and video to Leon using her cell phone.

The text messages, images, and video were recovered by police. The victim, who was under the age of 5 at the time, was known to Diaz.

“The depths of depravity necessary for two people to plan and commit a crime of this nature together against a helpless child are both beyond the capacity of the English language to suitably articulate and beyond the capacity of human comprehension to adequately understand,” Acting Prosecutor Linskey said. “There is no place in any civilized society for anyone capable of such acts.”  

Diaz ultimately admitted to two counts of Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child and one count of Endangering the Welfare of a Child, pleading guilty in April 2021. As a result of Friday’s sentencing – 25 years for the sexual assaults, 10 years for the endangering, to be served consecutively – Diaz will be 64 before becoming eligible for parole. Upon release, she will be required to register under Megan’s Law and placed on Parole Supervision for Life.

In August 2019, Judge Bauman sentenced Leon to 25 years in state prison on charges of first-degree Aggravated Sexual Assault and third-degree Possession of Child Pornography.

The case was handled by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutors Tara Wilson and Julia Alonso.

Diaz was represented by Al Kapin, Esq., of West Orange.

Leon was represented by Michael Kuhns, Esq., of Lawrenceville.

Hightstown Man Convicted For 2018 Roadside Slaying Of Freehold Woman

October 12, 2021

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–A Monmouth County jury has returned guilty verdicts on all charges against a Hightstown man who fatally shot a Freehold woman as she drove along on a state highway three years ago, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Tuesday.       

Kader Mustafa, 40, was convicted of first-degree Murder, second-degree Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose, two counts of second-degree Unlawful Possession of a Weapon, and two counts of third-degree Endangering Another Person in connection with the killing of 24-year-old Sciasia Calhoun.    

Shortly before 11:45 p.m. on Thursday, May 3, 2018, members of the Freehold Township Police Department responded to a 911 call originating from a vehicle stopped along Route 33 West near the exit ramp for Halls Mill Road. At that location, officers found three occupants of the vehicle, a 1997 Mazda Protégé: Calhoun, having sustained a single gunshot wound to the head, and her boyfriend and her 1-year-old daughter, both of whom were not physically harmed.  

Calhoun was rushed by Freehold First Aid, with the assistance of Monmouth-Ocean Hospital Service Corporation (MONOC), to nearby CentraState Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead approximately one hour later.

An intensive investigation by the MCPO Major Crimes Bureau, greatly assisted by the Freehold Township and Manalapan police departments, revealed that Mustafa was driving a 2005 Chevrolet Impala when he fired a single shot at Calhoun, after several minutes of following her vehicle and flashing his high beams. Mustafa was apprehended in Manalapan in the area of Oakland Mills Road at approximately 8:10 a.m. the morning after the shooting, when two handguns were recovered from the vehicle.

Tuesday’s verdict was delivered following a multi-week trial before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Vincent N. Falcetano Jr. Representing the State during the proceedings was Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Investigation Division Director and Assistant Prosecutor John Loughrey.

“This was a chilling, senseless crime, committed against a total stranger in the dead of night, in front of the victim’s horrified boyfriend and young child,” Acting Prosecutor Linskey said. “We thank the jury for their service and are deeply gratified to know that while today’s verdict can’t bring Sciasia Calhoun back, this defendant will be kept off the streets and brought to justice for his actions.”  

Sentencing in the case has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Friday, January 7, 2022. Mustafa is facing a minimum of 30 years and a maximum of life in state prison, with a 30-year period of parole ineligibility.  


Trip For Eight Never Materialized To 2019 Masters Tournament; Two Indicted For Six-Figure Theft

October 7, 2021

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH) – Two men have been charged via direct indictment for a six-figure theft connected to a contracted trip for eight people to attend the 2019 Masters Tournament that never materialized, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Thursday.

John Donadio, 56, of Belmar and Michael Moyer, 56, of New Orleans, Louisiana, is each charged with second-degree Theft.

An investigation by the Belmar Police Department that grew to also involve investigators with the Prosecutor’s Office determined that the primary victim in the case had entered into a contract with Eclipse Global Events, a Belmar-based company controlled by the defendants, for the trip to the annual golf tournament held in Augusta, Georgia. The contracted charge for the trip was more than $126,000, to include lodging, tickets (both practice rounds and tournament rounds), hospitality events, and local transportation for all eight travelers.

Yet shortly after the contracted amount was paid in full and immediately prior to the event, the victim was advised that their payment was “late,” and that he would not be receiving the trip – nor a refund.

The victims missed a good one – Tiger Woods won his first major tournament title in more than a decade at the 2019 Masters, coming from behind in the final round in one of the most significant moments in the recent history of the sport.

A Monmouth County Grand Jury returned the indictment late last month, and Donadio turned himself in on Friday, October 1. Moyer did the same five days later.

The case is being prosecuted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Kristen Anastos. Donadio is being represented by Thomas Huth, Esq., with an office in Red Bank, while attorney information for Moyer was not immediately available.

Anyone with additional information about the activities of defendants Donadio or Moyer is being asked to contact Prosecutor’s Office Detective Michael Acquaviva at 1-800-533-7443.

Convictions on these charges are commonly punishable by 5 to 10 years in state prison.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.  


Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Launches LGBTQ+ Law Enforcement Liaison And Safe Place Programs

October 7, 2021

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–It’s a simple notion that speaks directly to the twin tenets of equality and justice that no one, anywhere, should ever have to fear being exactly who they are.

It’s also the driving force behind Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey yesterday announcing the launch of the MCPO LGBTQ+ Law Enforcement Liaison Program and the SAFE PLACE Program, two new initiatives intended to foster improved relations between the LGBTQ+ community and law enforcement in Monmouth County, as well as provide individuals belonging to federally protected classes safe places from which to report bias incidents and/or hate crimes.

“Like New Jersey at large, Monmouth County is a vibrant, diverse place where individuals hailing from countless different backgrounds come to live, work, and visit,” Acting Prosecutor Linskey said. “Every single one of them deserves to feel safe and welcomed here, and we plan to do everything in our power to ensure that they always do.” 

Gathering for yesterday’s announcement were local elected officials and police chiefs, numerous LGBTQ+ Law Enforcement Liaisons from across the state, as well as members of MCPO executive leadership and Acting New Jersey Attorney General Andrew Bruck – the first member of the LGBTQ+ community to serve as the Garden State’s chief law enforcement officer.

“Initiatives like these empower members of the LGBTQ+ community by letting them know they have allies everywhere,” Bruck said. “I applaud Acting Prosecutor Linskey for her leadership in bringing these meaningful programs to Monmouth County.” Through the MCPO LGBTQ+ Law Enforcement Liaison Program, the Prosecutor’s Office is hopeful that many of the more than 50 law-enforcement agencies across the county will designate a department Liaison; the designee may be any sworn or civilian employee who identifies as LGBTQ+ (or as an ally) and wishes to serve as a connection point between law enforcement and the local LGBTQ+ community. The Liaisons will then collaborate with those communities to address issues of concern, and to support MCPO’s service to the public.

A Liaison’s responsibilities will also include, among other things:

  • With supervisory approval, attend events in the LGBTQ+ community as a representative of the MCPO;
  • Meet with and provide a forum for business owners, community groups, schools, and members of the LGBTQ+ community, and present information on relevant law enforcement/community issues;
  • Become fully familiar with the Attorney General’s Bias Incident Investigation Standards and the definitions of bias incidents and related criminal violations pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:16-1(a)(1) or (2);
  • Assist, advise, and consult with MCPO Assistant Prosecutors and Detectives on cases involving the LGBTQ+ community or LGBTQ+ issues;
  • Provide support, upon request, to LGBTQ+ staff members;
  • Provide diversity trainings, with supervisory approval, at the Monmouth County Police Academy or in other forums, upon request; and
  • Provide an annual report to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office on activities of the Liaison position and public safety trends related to the LGBTQ+ community.

The Liaisons will also participate in the local implementation of MCPO SAFE PLACE, a public-private partnership centered on the reporting of bias incidents and hate crimes targeting any protected class of individuals – whether motivated by race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or ethnicity.Through the Program, local participating businesses, social organizations, and schools will be given brightly colored decals for posting prominently in an entrance area, allowing anyone who spots them to know that the location will provide a safe environment for someone to call 911 for assistance if they believe they have been the target of a bias incident or hate crime.

New Jersey’s Bias Intimidation statute is applied whenever an underlying crime is determined to have been committed with a “purpose to intimidate an individual or group of individuals” because one or more of them are members of any of the aforementioned protected classes. The degree of the Bias Intimidation charge is one degree higher than the degree of the most serious underlying charge.

Every local business, social organization, or school in Monmouth County is eligible to participate in the Program free of charge. The only requirement is twofold: if a victim of any crime (especially a hate crime) enters the premises, call 911 immediately; and allow the victim to remain on the premises until police arrive.

The SAFE PLACE program was first introduced by the Seattle Police Department in 2015, with more than 7,000 locations across the city participating by 2019. Today they sanction police departments nationwide in replicating the program in their jurisdictions; MCPO is the 293rd such agency in the U.S., Canada, or Europe to launch its own version.

“Too often, initiatives of this nature involve a wealth of talk and a dearth of action – that’s why we’re so enthusiastic about the fact that this announcement was just the first step toward something much bigger,” Acting Prosecutor Linskey said. “Through these two programs, members of our Office and local police departments will be reaching out and making connections in their local communities. They’ll be listening to their constituents, having meaningful conversations, and effecting actual positive change. Making things like this possible is precisely why I took this job.” 

The SAFE PLACE program will be piloted with the cooperation of the municipal leadership and police departments of Asbury Park, Long Branch, and Red Bank, yet participation ultimately will be open to all locations countywide.

Most of the Prosecutor’s Office eight inaugural volunteer Law Enforcement Liaisons – a group that includes investigators and assistant prosecutors alike – attended Wednesday’s event, which included the raising of a Pride flag at the Office’s main entrance. It will remain in place through Monday, October 11 – National Coming Out Day 2021. 

If your business, social organization, or school is interested in participating in MCPO SAFE PLACE, contact the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office at SafePlace@mcponj.org or your local police department.


Former Middlesex County Sheriff’s Officer Indicted For Videotaped Sexual Assaults Of Unconscious Women

September 27, 2021

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–A Monmouth County grand jury has returned a 20-count indictment against a former Middlesex County Sheriff’s Officer charged with videotaping violent sexual assaults of multiple unconscious women over the span of three years, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Monday.

Joshua Padilla, 36, was indicted Friday and is now charged with eight counts of first-degree Aggravated Sexual Assault, seven counts of third-degree Invasion of Privacy, four counts of third-degree Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact, and one count of second-degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

In February 2019, members of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Victims Bureau arrested Padilla, a resident of Berkeley Place in Eatontown, in relation to an investigation by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office. 

As a result of the investigation, Padilla was found to be in possession of numerous videos of himself performing sexual acts upon women who were clearly unconscious and unresponsive. Additionally, the defendant was found to be in possession of child sexual abuse materials. Many of these crimes took place at the defendant’s home in Eatontown, with others occurring in Middlesex County.

The sexual assault charges outlined today relate to three different adult victims and crimes taking place from 2016 into 2018, but investigators continue to seek additional information about Padilla’s activities. Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Brian Hammarstrom of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office at 732-431-7160, Ext. 6413. “These were truly unspeakable crimes against utterly helpless victims,” Acting Prosecutor Linskey said. “We are encouraged by the progress made so far in shepherding this case through the criminal justice system, but troubled by the prospects

of other victims being out there who have yet to come forward – and who may not even have known they were victimized. We urge anyone with any information about the activities of this defendant to step forward and tell us what they know.”

Anyone who wishes to make an anonymous report about this case can call the Monmouth County Crime Stoppers’ confidential tip line at 1-800-671-4400. Tipsters can also text “MONMOUTH” and their tip to 274637, or they can email a tip via the website at www.monmouthcountycrimestoppers.com.

The investigation into Padilla has thus far resulted in criminal charges in three different jurisdictions; in July 2019, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania announced that it was indicting him for producing, distributing, and being in possession of child sexual abuse materials after he allegedly recorded himself engaging in unlawful sexual contact with a 17-year-old girl in Pennsylvania and later uploaded the video online. In March 2021, Padilla pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual contact with a minor in relation to the aforementioned investigation by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, admitting to attempting to meet with an undercover agent posing as a 14-year-old girl and digitally sharing with her sexually graphic images of himself.

If convicted on the charges filed in Monmouth County Superior Court, Padilla would face up to 20 years in state prison on each count of Aggravated Sexual Assault, up to five years on each count of Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact, up to five years for each count of Invasion of Privacy, and up to 10 years for Endangering the Welfare of a Child. Additionally, he would be subject to Parole Supervision for Life and would be required to register under Megan’s Law.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendants have all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.

The defendant remains incarcerated in federal prison in Pennsylvania, and is no longer employed by the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office.

This case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Danielle Zanzuccki.



Two Charged With Supplying Drugs That Killed Howell Woman

September 23, 2021

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–Two men have been arrested and charged with supplying a Howell woman with the drugs that killed her, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Thursday.

Terrance R. Rose, 38, of Freehold Borough and Reginald A. Simeus, 42, of Howell are both charged with first-degree Strict Liability for a Drug-Induced Death.

On Tuesday, November 17, 2020, members of the Howell Township Police Department responded to a residence on a report of a possible drug overdose. Upon arrival, they found 35-year-old Katherine Hughes, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

A joint investigation by members of the Prosecutor’s Office and the Howell Township Police Department ensued, through which Rose and Simeus were discovered to have been communicating with Hughes during the period leading up to her death. The investigation further determined that Simeus had obtained the drugs from Rose before passing them along to Hughes prior to her death.    

In the early stages of the investigation, Rose and Simeus were charged with multiple drug-related charges out of South Amboy (Middlesex County) and Howell, respectively; those charges remain pending. The Strict Liability charge was filed last week, with Simeus being arrested without incident at his home on Friday, September 17 and Rose turning himself in to members of the Howell Township Police Department on Monday, September 20.

Simeus was later released on his own recognizance, while Rose was transported to the Monmouth County Correctional Institution in Freehold, where he awaits a detention hearing before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Paul X. Escandon, scheduled for tomorrow, Friday, September 24.

Acting Prosecutor Linskey praised the proactive, dedicated efforts of the Howell Township Police Department, members of whom worked in conjunction with detectives from the Prosecutor’s Office’s Narcotics and Criminal Enterprises Unit and Major Crimes Bureau. 

“During recent years, there has been a sea change in how law enforcement has approached substance abuse, shifting from a strategy built more on enforcement to one built more on compassion. But that compassion is reserved only for those fighting to turn their lives around – not for those who would literally trade those individuals’ lives for a modest financial gain,” Acting Prosecutor Linskey said. “We hope the charges being announced today send a clear message to that latter group, putting them on notice that such conduct will be met with the sharpest prosecutorial rebuke permissible under the law.” 

This case is assigned to Assistant Prosecutor Christopher J. Decker, Director of the Prosecutor’s Office’s Major Crimes Bureau.

Rose is being represented by Michael J. Pappa, Esq., of Hazlet, while no attorney is known to have yet entered an appearance on Simeus’s behalf.

Convictions on first-degree criminal charges are commonly punishable by terms of up to 20 years in state prison.

Despite the aforementioned pending charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.


Monmouth County Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force have resulted in the arrests of 14 individuals

September 23, 2021

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–A series of investigations led by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Computer Crimes Unit and the Monmouth County Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force have resulted in the arrests of 14 individuals since late April, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Thursday.   

The following individuals have been charged with second-degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child via Distribution of Child Sexual Abuse Material:

  • Connor Bauba, 32, of Union Beach, arrested on August 30 following an investigation that revealed he was utilizing a social media platform to distribute child sexual abuse material.

  • Benjamin Luna-Valdetano, 34, of Red Bank, arrested on August 19 following an investigation that revealed he was utilizing a social media platform to distribute child sexual abuse material. Luna-Valdetano, who is being represented by Josue Vazquez, Esq., of Newark, was additionally charged with one count of third-degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child for the Possession of Child Sexual Abuse Material.

  • Joseph Latorre, 45, of Howell, arrested on July 28 following an investigation that revealed he was utilizing a social media platform to distribute child sexual abuse material. Latorre is being represented by Thomas Huth, Esq., of Red Bank.

An additional defendant, 20-year-old Leonardo Andrade of Freehold, was arrested on August 6 and charged with second-degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child via Possession of Child Sexual Abuse Material, following an investigation that revealed he was in possession of over 1,000 items depicting child sexual abuse. Andrade is being represented by Anthony Aldorasi, Esq., of Freehold.

The following individuals have been charged with third-degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child via Possession of Child Sexual Abuse Material:

  • Adam Vasquez, 18, of Colts Neck, arrested on May 12 following an investigation that revealed he was in possession of numerous items depicting child sexual abuse. Vasquez is being represented by Mitchell Ansell, Esq., of Ocean Township.

  • Jonathan Hall, 20, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, arrested on May 3 following an investigation that revealed he was in possession of videos depicting child sexual abuse. Hall is being represented by Steven Nelson, Esq., of Neptune.

  • Miguel Jacinto-Rivera, 20, of Red Bank, arrested on August 19 following an investigation that revealed he was in possession of child sexual abuse material. Jacinto-Rivera is being represented by Thomas Blauvelt, Esq., of East Brunswick.

  • Jose E. Rivera, 21, of Long Branch, arrested on April 29 following an investigation that revealed he was in possession of and viewed child sexual abuse material by utilizing a social media messaging platform. Rivera is represented by Robert Witek, Esq., of Long Branch.

  • Christopher Lauria, 22, of Ocean Township, arrested on July 16 following an investigation revealing that he was in possession of images of child sexual abuse material. Lauria is being represented by Charles Uliano, Esq., of West Long Branch.

  • Brandon Nelson, 28, of Hazlet, arrested on July 14 following an investigation that revealed that he was in possession of images of child sexual abuse material. Nelson is being represented by Kevin Clark, Esq., of Ocean Township.

  • Ricky Martinez, 29, of, Keansburg, arrested on June 8 following an investigation that revealed he was in possession of numerous images of child sexual abuse. Martinez is being represented by Keith Oliver, Esq., of Middletown.

Michael K. Russo, 51, of West Long Branch, arrested on September 3 following an investigation that revealed that he possessed child sexual abuse material. Russo is being represented by Joanna Boretti, Esq., of Freehold. 

Scott Conklin, 55, of Highlands, arrested on May 21 following an investigation that revealed he was in possession of child sexual abuse material. Conklin is being represented by Jason Volet, Esq., of Freehold.

William Ford, 76, of Farmingdale, arrested on September 2 following an investigation that revealed he possessed child sexual abuse material. Ford is being represented by Jason Volet, Esq., of Freehold.

Assisting in these investigations were members of the New Jersey State Police Digital Technology Investigations Unit (DTIU), the New Jersey State Police ICAC Task Force, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New Jersey Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory, and the Monmouth County Sherriff’s Office.

The Monmouth County ICAC Task Force includes members of the following police departments: Bradley Beach, Eatontown, Howell, Long Branch, Manalapan, Marlboro, Neptune Township, Spring Lake, Tinton Falls, Keyport, Keansburg, Belmar, Holmdel, and Red Bank; the Task Force also receives investigative support from the police departments in Long Branch, Colts Neck, Highlands, Hazlet, Howell, Union Beach, Keansburg, Red Bank, West Long Branch, Ocean Township, Freehold Township, and Freehold Borough, as well as the New Jersey State Police (Hamilton Barracks).

Convictions on second-degree charges of this nature are punishable by up to 10 years in state prison; convictions on third-degree charges of this nature are punishable by up to five years. Either would also result in defendants being registered under Megan’s Law and assigned parole supervision for life.

Andrade’s case is assigned to Assistant Prosecutor Kristen Anastos; Bauba’s case is assigned to Assistant Prosecutor Anthony Puglisi; William Ford’s case is assigned to Assistant Prosecutor Amanda Dalton Clark; and the remaining cases are assigned to Assistant Prosecutor Stephanie Dugan.


Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office “Surf” The Facility Dog Is On The Job

September 15, 2021

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–The newest member of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office brings years of rigorous training, a relentlessly affable attitude, and an unwavering commitment to service to his role; today is his first day on the job, having been assigned to the Monmouth County Child Advocacy Center.

He’s also 4 years old, and covered in fur.

“Surf” the facility dog, a yellow Labrador retriever, will meet with young victims of abuse from across the county at the Child Advocacy Center two days per week, as the centerpiece of a newly implemented therapy initiative shown to lessen victim anxiety and improve outcomes of investigations into such crimes.

“Our Child Advocacy Center is meant by design to offer a warm, welcoming environment for our very most vulnerable crime victims as they recuperate, and Surf’s arrival here brings that to another level entirely,” Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey said. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to have him join us.”

Surf’s arrival was more than two years in the making, made possible in great part by someone who has been working at the Child Advocacy Center long before that. Melissa Boege, Program Director of the Family Growth Program of Monmouth & Ocean Counties for Catholic Charities, has provided therapy to children, teens, and adults there since 2014 – and in 2019, the California-based nonprofit group Canine Companions placed Surf with her permanently.

“The children I work with have expressed ongoing enthusiasm about working with a facility dog, and have talked extensively about how the dog will help them feel better, talk about difficult things, and feel comfortable in therapy,” Boege said. “It’s incredible to witness – children who were previously shy,  anxious, disengaged, and defiant become interested, engaged, enthusiastic, open, and connected.”

Surf and Boege started working together with clients at the Family Growth Program’s Red Bank location just a matter of months after his arrival in New Jersey, and that same autumn they started visiting public and private schools across Monmouth County to present “Safety Steps,” a series of abuse-prevention workshops.

So his newest assignment won’t be his first rodeo.  

“Surf has the ideal temperament to perform this unique brand of work – he’s naturally calm, nurturing, and reassuring, while also responding enthusiastically to children and adults who prompt him to show a more playful side,” Child Advocacy Center Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) Coordinator Debbie Riveros said. “He fits in perfectly with our Team.”

Facility dogs fall under a definition that sets them apart from service dogs or therapy dogs, according to Canine Companions – to be designated as such, the dogs are expertly trained from birth, trustworthy in professional environments, and able to perform more than 40 commands. To be designated as a “facilitator,” as Boege is, one must be solely responsible for handling and caring for a facility dog, and also committed to long-term employment at a specific location for a minimum of 20 hours per week.

There are a limited number of facility dogs already serving at some of the more than 900 child advocacy centers nationwide, which serve more than 338,000 children annually, according to the Washington, D.C.-based National Children’s Alliance, the primary professional organization dedicated to supporting the model. But that number is growing, with studies showing that use of facility dogs during therapy sessions drastically reduces anxiety among child abuse victims, drastically increasing the likelihood of disclosure.

Surf’s first day of work may be today, but truthfully, he’s already a bit of a celebrity – the Child Advocacy Center has calendars, pamphlets, and even stress balls all made in his likeness. To follow his work and what he’s up to, connect with him on Facebook at Facility Dog Surf, or on Instagram at @facilitydog_surf.




Shrewsbury Man Charged With Embezzling $750K From His Former Employer, D’Angelico Guitars of America

September 8, 2021

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–A Shrewsbury man has been criminally charged with embezzling more than $750,000 from the Colts Neck-based company he once worked for as an accountant, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Wednesday.

Mark S. Bloom, 45, is charged with second-degree theft by unlawful taking.

A joint investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Colts Neck Police Department led to a financial analysis of D’Angelico Guitars of America, a musical instrument manufacturer headquartered on Route 537.

The analysis revealed that sometime in early 2020, Bloom had created a new personal PayPal account and began surreptitiously transferring funds into it from the company’s American Express business account and its PayPal business account. Using the personal PayPal account, Bloom then spent much of the more than $750,000 he embezzled on online gambling.

Bloom was charged via summons on Tuesday pending the scheduling of a hearing to take place in Monmouth County Superior Court. He is being represented by Randolph H. Wolf, Esq., with an office in Red Bank. 

The case is assigned to Assistant Prosecutor Kristen Anastos of the Prosecutor’s Office’s Financial Crimes and Public Corruption Unit. 

Despite the aforementioned pending charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.


Manalapan Man Charged In Fatal Shooting In Freehold Borough

August 25, 2021

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–A Manalapan man has been charged in Monday night’s fatal shooting in Freehold Borough that took the life of an 18-year old man. Lamin Conteh, 23, has been taken into custody on charges of first degree Murder, first degree Attempted Murder, second degree Possession of a Firearm for an Unlawful Purpose and second degree Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, announced Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey. 

 On August 23, 2021 at approximately 5:00 pm, the Freehold Borough Police Department received a 911 call of a reported shooting outside a Lloyd Avenue residence. Responding officers located Reashaun Billingsley, 18, as well as a second male victim inside the home. Billingsley was unconscious and had suffered multiple gunshot wounds.  He received emergency medical treatment and was transferred to Centra State Medical Center where he was pronounced deceased at 6:04 pm. The second male victim suffered a small graze wound to his leg.

An investigation conducted by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Freehold Borough Police Department revealed that Billingsley and the second  male victim had been sitting on the front porch outside the Lloyd Avenue home when a sedan approached them. At that time, the rear seat passenger, later identified as the defendant, started shooting at the two men, causing them to flee into the home after inflicting the fatal wounds to the victim.

Conteh was apprehended at approximately 2:10 pm this afternoon in Manalapan, and remains incarcerated pending a detention hearing to be scheduled in Superior Court. He faces a life sentence on these charges.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.


Manalapan Man Indicted For Father’s Murder

Pradeep Reddy, 39, of Manalapan, was indicted on one count of first degree Murder, in connection with the April 12th, 2021 death of his father, Radhakrishna Reddy.

August 7, 2021

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–On Friday August 6, a Monmouth County Grand Jury has returned an indictment against a Manalapan man in connection with the death of his father, announced Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey.

Pradeep Reddy, 39, of Manalapan, was indicted on August 6, 2021, on one count of first degree Murder, in connection with the April 12th, 2021 death of his father, Radhakrishna Reddy.

At approximately 4:40 pm on Monday April 12th, the Manalapan Township Police Department responded to 721 Summer Drive and discovered Radhakrishna Reddy, 78, unconscious and critically injured. The victim was taken to a local hospital for treatment, where despite significant medical intervention, the victim succumbed to these injuries on April 14.

A joint investigation by the Manalapan Police Department and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office subsequently revealed Pradeep Reddy was responsible for assaulting his father, ultimately leading to his death.  He was taken into custody and transported to the Monmouth County Correctional Institution where he has remained since his arrest.

If convicted of murder, Reddy faces up to 30 years in a New Jersey state prison. He would also be under parole supervision for five years following his release from state prison.

The case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Luciano.

Reddy is represented by Joshua Hood, Esq., of Freehold.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.


Monmouth County Corrections Officer Pleads Guilty To Shoplifting

22 Year Law Enforcement Veteran To Forfeit Public Employment

July 26, 2021

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–A Monmouth County Corrections officer has pled guilty after shoplifting in Ocean Township and West Long Branch, announced Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey.

Suzanne Simone, 53, of Ocean Township, a 22-year-veteran of the Monmouth County Correctional Institution, pled guilty today before Judge Ellen Torregossa-O’Connor to fourth degree Shoplifting in connection with multiple instances where she failed to pay for items at local Target and Home Depot stores. Simone’s plea calls for her to pay restitution to both stores in a total amount of $1,320.90. Simone has also forfeited public office in New Jersey.  She will receive non-custodial probation and is not allowed to return to either store.

This follows an investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office which revealed that on multiple occasions, Simone “skip scanned” items, essentially scanning multiple smaller items, and not scanning larger items or pretending to scan them and leaving the store without paying for them. In multiple instances, Simone was wearing her uniform while committing the theft. Some of the stolen goods were later recovered from her residence.

Simone is currently suspended from her position at the Monmouth County Correctional Institution. She is scheduled to be sentenced on September 24, 2021 at 9:00 a.m.

The case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Melanie Falco, Director of the Office’s Professional Responsibilities and Bias Crime Unit.

Simone is represented by Robert Holden Esq., of Shrewsbury.

Citizens may report concerns via the following: Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Corruption Tip Line – 855-7-UNJUST (855 786-5878); or E-mail at: corruption@mcponj.org write “Corruption/Misconduct Tip” in the subject line.


Off-Duty State Trooper Subdues Knife-Wielding Man

June 5, 2021

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–An off-duty New Jersey State Trooper subdued a man who brandished a knife during an altercation in the parking lot of a Dunkin Donuts in Freehold Township, N.J.

On Friday, May 28, Detective Sergent Michael Nelson, of the Troop “D” Criminal Investigation Office, overheard two men arguing behind his car in the parking lot of the Dunkin Donuts. During the altercation, DSG Nelson observed one of the men brandish a large knife and threaten the other man. DSG Nelson immediately exited his vehicle, approached the suspect, and identified himself as a New Jersey State Trooper.

DSG Nelson ordered the suspect to drop the knife, but the man retreated to his vehicle. Without concern for his own safety, DSG Nelson continued toward the suspect, pulled him from his vehicle, and successfully disarmed and subdued the man. A short time later, members of the Freehold Township Police Department arrived on scene and took custody of the suspect.

As a result of his quick and decisive actions, DSG Nelson deescalated a potentially deadly situation. His actions are in the finest traditions of the New Jersey State Police, Honor, Duty, and Fidelity.

35 Indictments Charging Gun Traffickers and Others Who Allegedly Sold or Possessed 96 Illegal Guns Including Ghost Guns, Assault Rifles

June 3, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced a wave of 35 indictments secured by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice in just over two months charging numerous defendants with illegal gun trafficking and/or possession of illicit weapons, including untraceable ghost guns, assault rifles, and outlawed large-capacity ammunition magazines. Ghost guns are not registered and do not have serial numbers, making them difficult to trace and making it harder for law enforcement to solve gun crimes.

The indictments charge a total of 81 defendants, a majority of whom face various weapons offenses in connection with the following illegal weapons seized in the investigations:

  • 96 Illegal Guns, including
  • 16 Assault Rifles and
  • 1 Machine Gun;
  • 53 Illegal Large-Capacity Ammunition Magazines.

The illegal guns include a total of 10 Ghost Guns that do not bear federally registered serial numbers. Most of the guns traced in these cases were purchased in various states other than New Jersey, including Pennsylvania, which was the source of at least 18 guns, and South Carolina, which was the source of at least 12 guns, as well as Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, among others.

Five of the indictments charge defendants with illegally trafficking guns. The others charge possession of illegal weapons by other alleged criminals, including individuals charged with using guns in violent crimes, alleged drug dealers, an alleged human trafficker, and a fugitive charged with credit card fraud. Thirty-four of the indictments stem from investigations conducted between January 2019 and February 2021, with most charging conduct in 2020 and 2021. One case dates to 2018.

Thirty-three indictments were secured by the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. Two indictments were secured by the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau.

The Division of Criminal Justice and New Jersey State Police consistently join with other law enforcement partners to conduct strategic investigations focused on disrupting the supply-line of weapons trafficking into violent areas, arresting drug dealers and seizing existing weapons in those areas, and aggressively prosecuting all defendants who traffic, use, or possess guns in connection with criminal activity.

“We are aggressively targeting those responsible for the proliferation of guns and gun violence in our communities, including gun traffickers, drug dealers, and other criminals who arm themselves with illegal weapons,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Assault rifles have long been a weapon of choice for gangs and drug dealers, and more recently there has been an alarming increase in untraceable ghost guns, which often are seized by police after they have been used in a shooting. By focusing on illegal guns, working to shut down the iron pipeline of firearms from other states, and prosecuting offenders under New Jersey’s tough gun laws, we are taking guns and armed criminals off of the street—and undoubtedly saving lives.”

“These 35 indictments are the product of strong collaboration by the Division of Criminal Justice and law enforcement agencies at all levels, all across New Jersey and into states such as Pennsylvania and South Carolina, which were source states for guns allegedly sold by certain defendants,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “By cracking down on gun traffickers, armed drug dealers, and others with illegal weapons, we are working to reduce the gun violence and drug dealing that are claiming far too many lives in New Jersey and are undermining the safety and security of our communities. I commend our Gangs and Organized Crime Bureau, Specialized Crimes Bureau, the New Jersey State Police, and all of our law enforcement partners for these outstanding results.”

“Illegal weapons trafficking has unfortunately evolved over time. The proliferation of ghost guns, which can be assembled from parts originating from across the country, has made it more difficult to solve violent crimes and disrupt trafficking networks, but fortunately law enforcement has evolved at a much faster rate by utilizing state-of-art investigative techniques and employing massive multi-jurisdictional collaborations, which are directly responsible for today’s indictments and the seizure of nearly 100 guns,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “We will continue to work with our partners to combat not only the trafficking of illegal weapons, but to also disrupt the assembly and sale of ghost guns both in New Jersey and across the country.”

The 35 state grand jury indictments charge the defendants with offenses ranging from unlawful possession and disposition of handguns, assault weapons, and machine guns to leader of a firearms trafficking network, and also include charges of unlawful transportation of firearms into the state; charges related to the unlawful purchase, manufacture, transportation, and possession of ghost gun parts and ghost guns; unlawful possession of defaced weapons; unlawful possession of weapons during commission of narcotics offenses; unlawful possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines: unlawful possession of illegal hollow-point bullets; and unlawful possession of weapons by convicted felons. Many of the charges carry Graves Act penalties requiring mandatory periods of parole ineligibility of up to five years. As detailed below, two of the guns that were seized have been linked to shootings, including a homicide.

The following cases illustrate the range of the investigations:

Michael Maresca, et al.

Michael Maresca, 32, of Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., allegedly trafficked ghost guns in the area of Paterson, N.J. He was indicted with two other men—Robert Moser, 49, of Depauw, Indiana, and Maken Cornell, 52, of Grove City, Ohio—for allegedly conspiring to purchase assault rifle kits, ghost gun parts, and outlawed large-capacity magazines and have them shipped to New Jersey, where Maresca allegedly assembled the illegal guns and sold them. During the investigation, in October and November 2020, five ghost guns and two assault rifles were seized. Maresca allegedly sold two ghost guns to an undercover officer, including one that was equipped with an illegal 15-round magazine loaded with prohibited hollow-point bullets.

Henry Kidd Jr., Javar Kidd, and Terrance Alford

Two Trenton men, Javar Kidd, 32, and Terrance Alford, 46, were indicted along with Kidd’s uncle Henry Kidd Jr., 51, of Hayneville Alabama, on charges that they conspired to transport weapons into New Jersey from South Carolina for illegal sale or transfer to criminals in and around Trenton. Nine handguns and four illegal large-capacity magazines were seized during the investigation in October 2020. Henry Kidd Jr. is charged with first-degree promoting organized street crime.

Operation Zombie

Four defendants, including Robert Crosley III, 34, aka “Zombie,” and Matthew Zoba, 40, both of Philadelphia, were indicted on charges that they conspired to run a major Philadelphia-based gun trafficking ring that illegally trafficked guns and methamphetamine into Camden, N.J. They are charged in connection with 22 illegal firearms seized during the investigation—including four assault rifles—as well as seven illegal large-capacity magazines. Between March 2019 and January 2020, they allegedly sold 16 guns in the Camden area during the investigation, including a 9mm handgun linked to a shooting in Philadelphia in which no one was hit, as well as a semi-automatic rifle linked to the Oct. 20, 2019 murder of 2-year-old Nikolette Rivera, who was shot as her mother held her in her arms in their home in Philadelphia. Crosley and Zoba are both charged with first-degree promoting organized street crime.

Enrique “Neff” Alfonso

Enrique “Neff” Alfonso, 28, of Camden, N.J., allegedly used a popular social networking service to conduct illegal firearms sales in the Camden area. Between February and May 2020, he allegedly sold an assault rifle, five handguns, another rifle, and three illegal large-capacity magazines. He is charged in a 17-count indictment with numerous weapons offenses, including possession of a weapon as a convicted felon, which carries a mandatory minimum prison term of five years without parole upon conviction.

Christopher J. Pespas

Christopher J. Pespas, 74, of Egg Harbor Township, N.J., was indicted on charges that he was purchasing parts for “ghost gun” assault rifles on the internet, along with illegal large-capacity magazines. Investigators executed a search warrant at his residence in August 2019 and seized parts that could be assembled to make three assault rifles—all “ghost guns.”

Isiah Greene and Jamal Bethea

Isiah Greene, 29, and Jamal Bethea, 32, of Trenton, N.J., alleged members of the Sanhican Drive Boys gang, allegedly engaged in a shootout on Feb. 12, 2020 with two members of the Get Money Boys gang, Shaiquan Hearns and Dion Battle. Greene allegedly fired from a vehicle driven by Bethea. No one on either side of the shootout was hit, but Bethea crashed the vehicle, and Bethea and Greene fled. Greene allegedly hid the gun in the backyard of a residence. Greene and Bethea were indicted on first-degree charges of conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder, among other offenses. Hearns and Battle were previously charged by the Division of Criminal Justice with two counts of attempted murder—one count for firing at Greene and Bethea, and another for firing at a police officer who pursued their vehicle after the shootout.

Peter Santos and Joshua Perez

Peter A. Santos, 22, and Joshua M. Perez, 22, of Trenton, N.J., allegedly pistol-whipped a victim with a handgun and robbed him of his wallet in Trenton on Jan. 24, 2021. A subsequent search of a hotel room rented by Perez revealed a second handgun loaded with illegal hollow-point bullets. Both men were indicted on charges of first-degree robbery, as well as aggravated assault and weapons offenses.

The 35 state grand jury indictments are posted at View Indictments.

The 33 indictments that were presented to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau were presented by the following Deputy Attorneys General (DAsG), under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Cassandra Montalto, Deputy Bureau Chief Cynthia Vazquez, Bureau Chief Lauren Scarpa Yfantis, and DCJ Deputy Director Annmarie Taggart: DAG Robert Anstatt, DAG Karen Braciszewski, DAG Brian Carney, DAG John Donovan, DAG Anna Gildea, DAG Heather Hausleben, DAG Angel Hector, DAG Amie Hyde, DAG Sean Lindenau, DAG Mohammad Mahmood, DAG Katherine Morris, DAG Jaclyn Poulton, and DAG Veronica Vizzard. The two indictments presented to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau were presented by DAG Evgeniya Sitnikova and DAG Kara Webster, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Valerie Butler, Bureau Chief Erik Daab, and DCJ Deputy Director Taggart.

First-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000, while second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. The sentence for promoting organized street crime must be served consecutively to the sentence for any underlying offense. The second-degree charge of transporting firearms into the state for illegal sale carries a mandatory period of parole ineligibility equal to 85 percent of the sentence imposed. Possession of a weapon as a convicted felon carries a mandatory period of parole ineligibility of five years. The second-degree charge of unlawful possession of a handgun carries a mandatory period of parole ineligibility equal to one-third to one-half of the sentence imposed or 3 ½ years, whichever is greater. Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000 ($35,000 for drug charges), while fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.



Koi Allen, Tyrik Johnson, Hamilton Township, Mercer County, January 19, 2021, Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance – Third Degree, Conspiracy – Second Degree, Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Dangerous Substance Within 1,000 Feet of School Property – Third Degree, Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Dangerous Substance – Second Degree, Unlawful Possession of a Weapon – Second Degree, Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of Certain Crimes – Second Degree, Unlawful Possession of a Large Capacity Ammunition Magazine – Fourth Degree, Possession of Hollow Nose Bullets – Fourth Degree, Certain Persons Not to Have Weapons – Second Degree (Johnson).

AAREN C. BAILEY, March 10, 2020, Hamilton Township, Mercer, Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance – Third Degree, Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance – Third Degree, Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Dangerous Substance – Second Degree, Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Dangerous Substance – Second Degree, Distribution of a Controlled Dangerous Substance – Third Degree, Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of Certain Crimes – Second Degree, Unlawful Possession of a Large Capacity Ammunition Magazine – Fourth Degree, Certain Persons Not to Have Weapons – Second Degree.

DAEVON BELL, December 27, 2019, Trenton, Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled, Dangerous Substance – Third Degree, Unlawful Possession of a Weapon – Second Degree, Unlawful Possession of a Weapon – Second Degree, Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of Certain Crimes – Second Degree, Possession of Hollow Nose Bullets – Fourth Degree, Unlawful Possession of a Large Capacity, Ammunition Magazine – Fourth Degree, Possession of a Defaced Firearm – Fourth Degree, Certain Persons Not to Have Weapons – Second Degree.

ERIC CARR, September 21, 2020, Trenton, Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance – Third Degree, Distribution of a Controlled Dangerous Substance – Third Degree, Distribution of a Controlled Dangerous Substance Within
1000 Feet of School Property – Third Degree, Distribution of a Controlled Dangerous Substance Within
500 Feet of Certain Public Property – Second Degree, Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance – Third Degree, Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Dangerous Substance – Second Degree, Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Dangerous Substance – Third Degree, Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of Certain Crimes – Second Degree, Unlawful Possession of a Firearm without a Serial Number – Third Degree, Unlawful Possession of a Large Capacity Ammunition Magazine – Fourth Degree, Unlawful Possession of a Large Capacity
Ammunition Magazine – Fourth Degree, Certain Persons Not to Have Weapons – Second Degree.

JUSTICE CHAMBERS, LAWRENCE BRANTLEY AND VICTOR TORRES, September 20, 2020, Hamilton Township, Mercer, Unlawful Possession of a Firearm – Second Degree – VICTOR TORRES, Unlawful Possession of a Firearm – Second Degree – JUSTICE CHAMBERS and LAWRENCE BRANTLEY, Possession of a Defaced Firearm – Fourth Degree – JUSTICE CHAMBERS and LAWRENCE BRANTLEY, Certain Persons Not to Have Weapons– Second Degree -LAWRENCE BRANTLEY.

FELICITA GEE, February 24, 2020, Ewing Township, Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance – Third Degree, Distribution of a Controlled Dangerous Substance – Third Degree, Possession With Intent to Distribute a Controlled Dangerous Substance – Second Degree, Unlawful Possession of a Large Capacity Ammunition Magazine – Fourth Degree.

RAJON GLOVER, February 1, 2019, Trenton, NJ, Conspiracy – Third Degree, Unlawful Possession of a Rifle – Third Degree, Manufacture, Transport, Disposition of a Rifle – Fourth Degree, Theft by Unlawful Taking or Disposition – Third Degree, Certain Persons Not to Have Weapons – Second Degree.

ROBERTO L. DIAZ-BOURET, CARL S. MALDONADO, DIANNE T. STROHMENGER, Freehold, Freehold Township, Brick Township, Wall Township, January 17, 2019, and on or about April 9, 2019,


RONALD HARRIS, Trenton, NJ July 20, 2020, and on or about July 21, 2020, Human Trafficking – First Degree, Facilitating Human Trafficking – Second Degree, Promoting Prostitution – First Degree, Eluding – Second Degree, Resisting Arrest By Flight – Fourth Degree, Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance- Third Degree, Unlawful Possession of a Weapon – Second Degree, Unlawful Possession of Large Capacity, Ammunition Magazines – Fourth Degree, Endangering Welfare of Children – Second Degree, Certain Persons Not to Have Weapons – Second Degree,

THURMAN JENNINGS, Hamilton Township, NJ, September 4, 2020, Unlawful Possession of a Weapon – Second Degree, Unlawful Possession of a Large Capacity Ammunition Magazine – Fourth Degree, Receiving Stolen Property– Third Degree, Certain Persons Not to Have Weapons – Second Degree.

DASHAUN PETERSON and JUSTICE CHAMBERS, Trenton, NJ, September 5, 2020, and September 6, 2020, Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled, Dangerous Substance – Third Degree, Possession of with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Dangerous Substance within 1,000 Feet of School Property – Third Degree, Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Dangerous, Substance within 500 Feet of Certain Public Property– Second Degree, Unlawful Possession of an Assault Firearm – Second Degree DASHAUN PETERSON and JUSTICE CHAMBERS, Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of Certain Crimes – Second Degree, Possession of a Large Capacity Ammunition Magazine – Fourth Degree, Possession of a Large Capacity Ammunition Magazine – Fourth Degree, Financial Facilitation of Criminal Activity– Third Degree.

JOY SCOTT, Trenton, NJ, January 3, 2019, Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance – Third Degree, Distribution of a Controlled Dangerous Substance – Second Degree, Distribution of A Controlled Dangerous Substance Within 1000 Feet of School Property – Third Degree, Distribution of a Controlled Dangerous Substance within 500 Feet
of Certain Public Property – Second Degree, Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Dangerous Substance – Third Degree, Unlawful Possession of an Assault Firearm – Second Degree, Unlawful Possession of a Weapon – Second Degree, Possession of Hollow Nose Bullets – Fourth Degree, Unlawful Possession of a Large Capacity Ammunition Magazine – Fourth Degree, Endangering Welfare of Children – Second Degree,

KHAZI SPADY and PHILLIP FOSTER, Lawrence Township, September 6, 2020, Unlawful Possession of a Weapon – Second Degree – KHAZI SPADY, Unlawful Possession of a Large Capacity, Ammunition Magazine – Fourth Degree – KHAZI SPADY, Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance – Third Degree – Unlawful Possession of a Weapon – Second Degree , Unlawful Possession of a Weapon – Second Degree – PHILLIP FOSTER, Unlawful Possession of a Weapon – First Degree – PHILLIP FOSTER.

HASSAN WILSON, VENESHA PINKNEY and DEWAYNE PINKNEY, Trenton, NJ, February 24, 2021, Unlawful Possession of an Assault Firearm – Second Degree, Possession of a Defaced Firearm – Fourth Degree – HASSAN WILSON, Unlawful Possession of a Large Capacity Ammunition Magazine – Fourth Degree, Unlawful Possession of a Weapon – First Degree – DEWAYNE PINKNEY, Certain Persons Not to Have Weapons – Second Degree – DEWAYNE PINKNEY.

WILLIAM WOOLLEY, ANDRE SULIMENKO and NICHOLAS GOOSKOS, Jackson, NJ, November 1, 2020



Enrique Alfonso

Allen & Johnson
Aaren Bailey
Bailey et. al.
Daevon Bell
Willis & Daysha Brown
Brown & St. Louis
Bush et. al.
Eric Carr
Castellar et. al.
Chambers et. al.
Crosley et. al.
Diaz-Bouret et. al.
Isiah Fields
Felicita Gee
Rajon Glover
Greene & Bethea
Guest et. al.

Ronald Harris
Thurman Jennings
Kidd et. al.
Maresca et. al.
Michael Maresca
Davon McClendon
Christopher Pespas
Dashaun Peterson
Roberts et. al.
Santos & Perez
Joy Scott
Spady & Foster
Sullivan & Cumba
Naquan Wilson
Wilson et. al.
Woolley et. al.
Laqua Young


The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Attorney General Grewal thanked the following law enforcement agencies that investigated the cases in collaboration with the Division of Criminal Justice:

  • New Jersey State Police
  • Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office
  • Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Philadelphia Gun Violence Task Force
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force 
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives
  • U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
  • U.S. Homeland Security Investigations
  • U.S. Marshals Service NY/NJ Regional Fugitive Task Force
  • U.S. Postal Inspection Service
  • U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General
  • Atlantic City Police Department
  • Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Atlantic City Task Force
  • Barnegat Township Police Department
  • Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Bensalem Township (Pa.) Police Department
  • Camden County Police Department
  • Camden County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Camden County Sheriff’s Office
  • Cliffside Park Police Department
  • Egg Harbor Township Police Department
  • Ewing Police Department
  • Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Gloucester Township Police Department
  • Hamilton Township (Mercer County) Police Division
  • Harrison Police Department
  • Hasbrouck Heights Police Department
  • Howell Township Police Department
  • Hudson County Sheriff’s Office
  • Irvington Police Department
  • Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Middletown Township Police Department
  • Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Moorestown Police Department
  • Morris County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Morris County Sheriff’s Office
  • Morris Plains Police Department
  • Nassau County (N.Y.) District Attorney’s Office
  • Neptune City Police Department
  • Neptune Township Police Department
  • Newark Police Department
  • Nutley Police Department
  • Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Ocean County Sheriff’s Department
  • Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Passaic County Sheriff’s Office
  • Paterson Police Department
  • Philadelphia Police Department
  • Ramsey Police Department
  • South Toms River Police Department
  • Toms River Police Department
  • Trenton Police Department
  • Voorhees Township Police Department
  • Wall Township Police Department
  • Winslow Township Police Department

Lakewood Men Indicted For Murder In Howell Township Slaying

June 1, 2021

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–Omar Rivera-Rojas (also known as Juan Carlos Rivera-Rojas), 31, and his nephew Alberto Rojas-Hernandez, 19, both of Lakewood, were indicted by a Monmouth County Grand Jury today for Conspiracy to Commit Murder, Murder, Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose, Unlawful Possession of a Weapon and Tampering with Evidence, announced Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey.

The Howell Township Police Department responded to a 911 call at about 3:46 a.m. on October 18, 2019, reporting an unconscious male lying in Hurley Pond Road just east of Route 547. Upon arrival, a male was located lying face down in the roadway. The incident was initially investigated as a fatal hit-and-run motor vehicle incident. However, upon the arrival of SCART investigators it was quickly determined that his death was not the result of a hit and run event.

The man, identified as Domingo Merino-Rafael, 33, also of Lakewood, was unresponsive and obviously deceased. MONOC personnel responded and the victim was pronounced deceased at 4:12 a.m. by doctors at Newark Beth Israel Hospital. Rafael was taken to the Middlesex County Regional Medical Examiner’s Office where a post-mortem examination performed by Medical Examiner Allison Mautone, M.D., and the staff of the Middlesex County Medical Examiner’s Office determined the cause of death was a Homicide.

A joint investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and Howell Township Police Department determined Rivera-Rojas, Rojas-Hernandez, and Merino-Rafael traveled from Lakewood to Middlesex County on the evening of October 17, 2019. The men were returning to Lakewood in the early morning hours of October 18, 2019, when the trio got into an argument that culminated with the uncle and nephew pair killing Merino-Rafael.
The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Howell Township Police Department also credited the Lakewood Police Department and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office for their assistance during the investigation.

Rojas-Hernandez, of Joe Parker Avenue in Lakewood is being held in the Youth Detention Center in North Brunswick where he has been in custody since his arrest in October 2019. Rojas-Hernandez who was just 7 months shy of his 18th birthday at the time of the murder was previously waived to adult court to face the charges alongside his uncle and co-conspirator. Rivera-Rojas has also been detained since his arrest.

If convicted of Murder, Rivera-Rojas and Rojas-Hernandez each face a minimum sentence of 30 years in a New Jersey State Prison without parole and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, subject to the provisions of the “No Early Release Act” (NERA) requiring them to serve 85 percent of the sentence imposed before becoming eligible for release on parole.

The case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Stephanie Dugan and Assistant Prosecutor Tara Wilson.

Rojas-Hernandez is represented by Carlos Diaz-Cobo, Esq. of New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Rivera-Rojas is represented by Joseph Champagne, Esq. of Toms River, New Jersey.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.