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NJ Man Who Dismembered Neighbor Gets Time Added To Life Sentence

A Jail Cell - File / Photo: JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images

Jail Cell (credit: Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty Images)

MORRISTOWN, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey man already serving a life term for killing and dismembering his teenage neighbor has been sentenced to more time behind bars. Jonathan Zarate was ordered Friday to serve a five-year term for aggravated assault on a jail officer.

The term will run consecutive to his current sentence.

The assault charge stemmed from a November 2005 confrontation at the Morris County Jail, in which Zarate punched a corrections officer, who sustained facial injuries.

Zarate maintained that he acted in self-defense during the jail confrontation — claiming the officer accused him of creating a disturbance and wanted to lock him back in his cell during his one-hour exercise period. Zarate said he tried to reason with the officer, who then grabbed and punched him.

But county prosecutors said Zarate was deemed a management problem at the jail, adding that “reasonable actions” by officers to curb his behavior didn’t mean he was targeted by them.

The jail brawl occurred a few months after Zarate was arrested in the July 2005 death of 16-year-old Jennifer Parks.

Zarate and his younger brother were later convicted of killing and dismembering Parks, whose body was put in a trunk that they tried to dump into the Passaic River from a highway overpass a day after she was killed. But a police officer spotted them and arrested them at the scene.

Zarate’s lawyers presented a diminished capacity defense, claiming he was psychotic and had snapped when Parks called his younger brother names. But a jury needed only two hours to reject those arguments and convict him of murder in December 2008.

Zarate’s sentencing on the aggravated assault charge initially was scheduled for last August, but it was postponed because Zarate, who had been beaten up in state prison, said he didn’t feel emotionally prepared to go through the process.

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