Prosecutor: Father of boy found dead in burned car in Sayreville charged with murder

Manuel Rivera faces numerous charges. He is currently in the hospital in critical condition due to his injuries.

Matt Trapani and Lanette Espy

Mar 29, 2024, 3:48 PM

Updated 25 days ago


Prosecutor: Father of boy found dead in burned car in Sayreville charged with murder
The father of a 9-year-old boy found dead in a burned car behind Sayreville High School Thursday night has been charged with his murder.
Sayreville Superintendent of Schools Dr. Richard Labbe confirmed in a statement that the child attended Woodrow Wilson Elementary School. Labbe says the child’s father is an employee of Sayreville Public Schools.
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The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office says authorities received a report about a fire near the high school around 10:45 p.m. Thursday. They say that at the same time, they received a call about a related domestic dispute. Authorities say the female victim of that dispute told police that Manuel Rivera, 43, left the home with their 9-year-old son.
Police responding to the car fire found Rivera alive near the school. They say he had burns on his body and a self-inflicted wound. They say that the car was doused with gasoline and was on fire.
River was taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and is listed in critical condition.
Officials say the boy’s body was discovered in the car. They say that following an autopsy, Rivera was charged with second-degree aggravated arson, first-degree murder, second-degree endangering the welfare of a child and second-degree desecration of human remains.
Labbe says counselors and therapists will be at the Wilson School on Monday to provide bereavement counseling.
Sayreville Mayor Kennedy O’Brien said in a statement that the Sayreville community is “shocked and saddened.”
“On this Good Friday, Sayreville is waking up to learn of a horrific incident that occurred overnight that shakes our community to its core: the loss of a 9-year-old child, allegedly at the hands of a parent.” O’Brien said in a statement. “Anytime such senseless violence involves one of our children, it gravely affects all of Sayreville.”
Anyone with information or surveillance footage of the area is asked to call Detective Michael Pirigyi, of the Sayreville Police Department, at 732-727-4444 or Detective Jose Rosario of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at 732-745-3289.

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