Keansburg man’s confession in murder of 11-year-old neighbor thrown out
A man who is serving time in prison for the rape and murder of his 11-year-old neighbor has won a major appeal.
Andreas Erazo pleaded guilty to the murder of Abiegail Smith in Keansburg in 2017.
But a New Jersey Appeals Court announced on Thursday that Erazo’s sentence was overturned. The court ruled that when detectives were questioning Erazo, they violated his rights by failing to read him his Miranda rights prior to obtaining his confession.
Abiegail Smith lived at the Hancock Arms Apartments. Her remains were eventually found wrapped in a sheet in the rear of the building on top of a shed. The body was located right outside Erazo’s window. He was her upstairs neighbor.
Erazo would confess to sexually assaulting and stabbing Smith to death. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2019.
Officials say that detectives conducted two interviews with Erazo in 2017, but only read him his rights before the second interview.
The appellate court ruled, “There was nothing custodial about either interview…No reasonable person would have thought at any time they were free to leave."
Police argued that Eraso was only a witness during the first interview, not in custody. But the appeals court disagreed. The decision now allows Erazo to request a new trial and revoke his guilty plea.
People who live at the Hancock Arms Apartments were disappointed by the court’s decision.
“Justice needs to be served. He deserves what he got, Miranda rights or not,” says Michaela Jackson.
Jackson says that there is no question about who harmed Abiegail.
“There’s no denying that. There’s no, ‘Oh it was a mistake, let him go,’” she says.
Jackson points to the DNA that allegedly connected Erazo to the crime, plus a witness who saw the girl going into his apartment.
Jackson’s sister Carlie and daughter lived next to Abiegail and her family in Highlands before they moved to Keansburg.
“My daughter and her were around the same sage and they would play out in the yard. They just made friends, loved doing gymnastics together,” Carlie says.
The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office plans to appeal the court’s decision to the New Jersey State Supreme Court.