Jury convicts man in Newark schoolyard triple killings
The first defendant to be tried for the Newark schoolyard triple murder has been convicted on all counts.
A jury returned the verdict Monday in state Superior Court in Newark against 26-year-old Rodolfo Godinez. The jury deliberated for nearly four hours and found him guilty on all 17 counts.
Prosecutors said Godinez called the shots and used his MS-13 gang influence the night three college-aged friends were murdered.
Godinez was one of six men charged in the killings. Three of the victims, Dashon Harvey, Iofemi Hightower and Terrance Aeriel, were shot and killed execution-style while the fourth, Natasha Aeriel, was shot and slashed with a machete. Ariel testified against Godinez in the trial.
Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Thomas McTigue quoted from a statement Godinez made to police in which he said the robbery and killings were to see if another defendant "had heart."Godinez, who didn't testify at the trial, admitted he was in the schoolyard when the murders happened. He also admits he was a recruiter for the notoriously vicious street gang.
Defense attorney Roy Greenman told jurors that Godinez was present at the Newark playground on Aug. 4, 2007, but had a limited role in the attacks.
Godinez could face life in prison at sentencing. He is scheduled to be sentenced July 8.
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