Newark schoolyard killings defendant sentenced to 155 years in prison
March 15, 2012 by admin
NEWARK — An Essex County judge has sentenced a 32-year-old man to 155 years in prison in connection with the 2007 Newark schoolyard slayings.
During a sentencing hearing this afternoon, Superior Court Judge Michael L. Ravin said Jose Carranza is eligible for parole after 107 years.
Newark schoolyard killings defendant Jose Carranza was convicted of felony murder charges and sentenced today to 155 years in prison.
Carranza was found guilty last month of three counts of felony murder and four counts of robbery in connection with the slayings, which left three college-aged friends dead. A fourth friend survived the attack and testified during Carranza’s trial.
In the August 2007, three Newark friends – Terrance Aeriel, 18, Iofemi Hightower and Dashon Harvey, both 20 – all died from gunshots to the head in the Mount Vernon schoolyard. A fourth friend and sibling of Aeriel, then 19-year-old Natasha Aeriel, was shot in the head but survived the attack.
All four were either attending or planning to attend Delaware State University that fall.
Carranza is one of six men accused in the killings. Two of the six accused – Rodolfo Godinez, 28, and Alexander Alfaro, 21 – were convicted by a jury and are serving life sentences. Two others – Shahid Baskerville, 20, and Melvin Jovel, 22 – pleaded guilty; Jovel is serving a life sentence and Baskerville accepted a 30-year sentence in exchange for testifying at Carranza’s trial and the trial.
Baskerville will also testify at the trial of the remaining defendant, Gerardo Gomez, 19.
Prosecutors have said that all six defendants charged in the shootings have ties to a Central American gang known as MS-13 and they believe the murders were gang-related.
Authorities say that Carranza’s fingerprint, found on a 40-ounce bottle of still-cold beer, and the lone survivor’s identification of him, places him at the scene of the murders. His attorney argued during trial that a fingerprint alone does not indicate whether he participated in the attack.
An Essex County jury found Carranza, an illegal immigrant from Peru, guilty of felony murder and robbery on Feb. 14. The jury acquitted the 32-year-old of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, sexual assault, conspiracy to commit robbery and weapons charges.
Carranza is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence in an unrelated aggravated assault case and was free on bail when the killings occurred. He and his family maintain that he is innocent.