Man Admits Role In Newark Schoolyard Slayings

NEWARK, N.J. (AP / 1010 WINS / WCBS 880) — A suspect in the execution-style killings of three college students in a New Jersey schoolyard in 2007 pleaded guilty Tuesday, days before his trial was set to begin.

Melvin Jovel, 21, pleaded guilty to three counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and weapons charges in the Newark attacks.

LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports on the surprising twist
LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reports from Newark

Prosecutors said Jovel and five other young men lined up Iofemi Hightower and Dashon Harvey, both 20, and 18-year-old Terrance Aeriel, against a schoolyard wall and shot each of them in the back of the head.

A fourth victim, who survived, testified at the first trial in the case that she was sexually assaulted, slashed with a machete and shot in the head. She is not being identified by The Associated Press because of the sexual assault charge.

“With this guilty plea today, the victim and the surviving family members are spared one trial and Mr. Jovel will spend the rest of his life behind bars,” said Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Thomas McTigue. “We can now move on with the prosecution of the remaining cases.”

The other four defendants are in jail awaiting trial.

Jovel faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced on Nov. 4. His lawyer, Joseph Krakora of the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender, declined to comment on the plea.

Prosecutors have portrayed the killings as an initiation ritual for members of the Central American gang MS-13. They say Jovel and at least two of the other suspects had lived in an apartment complex in Newark’s Ivy Hill section across the street from the scene of the murders.

Prosecutors say the four victims, who attended or planned to attend Delaware State University, were hanging out listening to music in the schoolyard behind the Mount Vernon school on the night of Aug. 4, 2007, when they were approached by the suspects, who robbed them and forced them to lie on the ground.

Soon after, according to testimony of the survivor, three of them were led down a set of stairs and shot. The survivor said she saw Jovel’s picture on TV while she was recovering in the hospital and remembered him as the person who shot her as he ran away from the scene.

The publicity surrounding the killings focused national attention on violent crime in New Jersey’s largest city and jump-started anti-crime initiatives.

The killings also prompted state officials to give police the authority to refer violent crime suspects’ names to immigration authorities if they are suspected of being in the country illegally, a response to the fact that one of the suspects was free on bail for other crimes despite being an illegal immigrant.

Several of the suspects are Latin American immigrants of differing immigration status. Prosecutors said Tuesday that it wasn’t clear whether Jovel, who was from Honduras, is in the United States legally or illegally.

Earlier this year, a jury convicted Rodolfo Godinez, a legal immigrant from Nicaragua, and sentenced him to three consecutive life sentences for the killings.

Godinez was not tied to the gun or machete used in the attacks but was convicted under New Jersey’s accomplice liability law. His lawyer plans to appeal.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


One Comment

  1. MURIEL says:


  2. P. Jack Driscoll says:

    Ask any killer or rapist whetehr they want life in prison or the death penalty. 98% will pick prison… and in NJ they can watch any type of pornographic movies they want.

    NJ was always a state of common sense!

  3. Roy says:

    Obviously….”enough rightwingers” has never been the victim of a violent crime,If he/she had,it would definately be a different story…………

  4. jtorres says:

    This may be hard for you to believe but it costs the taxpayers more to go through all the appeals process to go through the ccourt system than it does to clothe and feed prisoners for up to 60 years. So which is more cost-effective? If in fact that is your argument. And some victim’s families would rather let them rot in jail than be put out of their misery. I agree with them

  5. Enough rightwingers is too much says:

    Well, actually, it’s not that simple to just “put them to sleep”. There are appeals that can go on for years. I know that rightwingers like you don’t really get this, but we live in a society which means our common fund of taxes has to pay for things both good and bad. Of course rightwingers aren’t interested in subtleties, but actually see things in an inflexible, simplistic Old Testament kind of way (Eye for eye and all that). You must enjoy the constant state of agitation and self-righteous outrage that life inspires in you. Good luck with that.

    1. P. Jack Driscoll says:

      I believe you would feel different if it were your family that was killed or raped!

    2. Just being realistic, is all says:

      I am neither a right nor left winger. I merely see the horrible reality of the situation: this POS will rot in jail at OUR expense, all the while poisoning the minds of others in the same prison; others who may be released in the future to commit crimes of equal horror. No biggie…right?

  6. sheryl says:

    My questions is why???

  7. Enough is too much says:

    Life in prison?! That’s cruel and unusual punishment for the taxpayers AND the victims families. Just put them to sleep. Ridiculous.

    1. paul says:

      If tax payers have to pay their up keep for the rest of their lives. Then jail should be punishment. Give only enough food and water to live. Yes I believe in the eye for an eye bible laws which only means the punishment must equal the crime. They each should have a horrible death as these kids got. Let them be eaten by lions.

Comments are closed.

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