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.

Related Stories:

Testimony concludes in NJ triple slay trial Jurors hear from weapons experts in NJ triple slay New details may emerge in Newark schoolyard killings Schoolyard killings jury sees crime scene evidence Survivor to testify in Newark schoolyard murders

sorry to interrupt
your first 20 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 20 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 20 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login or create an account to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to news12.com while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."