Youth Pleads not Guilty in Schoolyard Killings
Posted by shadmia on February 7, 2008
17-year-old, Nicaraguan-born, Alexander Alfaro was arraigned in Superior Court in Newark on 18 criminal counts stemming from the schoolyard shooting deaths of three college students. Along with three murder counts, Alfaro faces robbery, attempted murder and weapons counts. Prosecutors allege Alfaro used a machete to attack 20-year-old Iofemi Hightower, one of the victims. He pleaded not guilty. Judge Donald J. Volkert Jr. continued his bail at $1 million and referred his charges to the grand jury.
Assistant Prosecutor Romesh Sukhdeo said afterward that he wanted the bail raised to $4 million since the youth had fled New Jersey after the shooting and had to be brought back from Virginia.
Alfaro and 5 others, including 3 adults and 2 juveniles, all with alleged ties to the MS-13 street gang, were charged in the Aug. 4 2007 murders at the Mt. Vernon School in Newark’s Ivy Hill section. Superior Court Judge James Troiano, who sits in the court’s family division, ruled last month that Alfaro can be tried as an adult. Two other suspects who were 15 at the time of the killings are undergoing evaluations to determine whether they can be tried as adults as well.
Dead are: Iofemi Hightower, 20, Dashon Harvey, 20, and Terrance Aeriel, 18.
The three victims were ordered to kneel against a wall and were each shot in the head. Aeriel’s sister, Natasha, survived a gunshot wound to the head and was able to help authorities identify some of the suspects. She and her family are living at an undisclosed location under the custody of the state’s witness protection program. The Aeriels and Harvey were students at Delaware State University, while Hightower was in the process of enrolling for the fall semester.
The three adults charged in the murders are:
- Jose Lachira Carranza, 28, of Orange NJ, an illegal immigrant from Peru.
- Rodolfo Godinez, 24, of Newark NJ, originally from Nicaragua and half-brother of Alexander Alfaro.
- Melvin Jovel, 18, of Elizabeth NJ, originally from Honduras.
Two unnamed juveniles, both 15 at the time, were also arrested.