Newark schoolyard slaying suspects hear charges

Six suspects accused of gunning down three college students last year on a Newark playground formally heard the charges against them Wednesday.

The group is accused of murdering Iofemi Hightower, Terrance Aeriel and Dashon Harvey as they hung out at the playground of Mount Vernon School. A fourth victim, Natasha Aeriel, survived the attack.

Jose Caranza, Rodolfo Godinez, and Melvin Jovel, the three adults charged, all pleaded not guilty through their attorneys, without speaking in court. Alexander Alfaro, Gerardo Gomez and Sharid Baskerville, all juveniles being charged as adults, pleaded not guilty as well.

Each faces murder, robbery and weapons charges involving a handgun and machete. Carranza and Baskerville also face charges of aggravated sexual assault.

A request to raise the juveniles' bail from $1 million to $2 million each was denied.

Prosecutors expect each defendant to be tried individually. The first trial could begin in early 2009.

The six are due back in court Dec. 2, when a judge will determine whether two of the juveniles should be relocated to a juvenile section of the Essex County Jail.

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