Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray announced today that Jose Carranza, 32, of Newark was sentenced today to 155 years in New Jersey State Prison by the Honorable Michael L. Ravin, J.S.C. for his role in a triple murder at Mount Vernon schoolyard in Newark.
Assistant Prosecutor Romesh Sukhdeo, who tried the case, said, “We are very satisfied with the sentence imposed by Judge Ravin. It ensures that the defendant will spend the rest of his life in prison.’’
On Feb. 14, an Essex County jury convicted Carranza of three counts of felony murder and four counts of robbery. Carranza was with five other men who robbed and murdered the three college students and attempted to kill another on Aug. 4, 2007.
The victims were: Iofemi Hightower, 20, who was also mutilated by a machete; Dashon Harvey, 20; and Terrance Aeriel, 18, all of Newark. All three died of gunshot wounds to the head. Natasha Aeriel, also of Newark, was shot, and attacked with a knife, but survived.
Carranza, an undocumented Peruvian, was taken into custody on Thursday, August 9, 2007.
Four other defendants involved in the attack have already been convicted or entered guilty pleas in the case. A sixth, Gerardo Gomez, 19, is awaiting trial. No trial date has been set for Gomez at this point.
Rodolfo Godinez, 28, and his half brother, Alexander Alfaro, 21, both of Newark, were convicted at trial. Melvin Jovel, 22, of Elizabeth, entered a guilty plea. All three were sentenced to life. Shahid Baskerville, 20, of Morristown, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for testifying against Carranza.
Under the No Early Release Act, Carranza, who is already serving an 8-year sentence for an aggravated assault, must serve 107 years before he is eligible for parole.
The jury that convicted Carranza began deliberating for five days, starting Feb. 7, 2012 and reached a verdict on Feb. 14. The jury found Carranza not guilty of three counts of murder, sexual assault, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to commit murder and weapons charges.