Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino announced today that an Essex County jury convicted David Fernandez, 29, of Newark of murder and attempted murder for killing Jose A. Rivera, 39, and attempting to kill Uriel Ocasio, who was 36 at the time. Both victims are longtime Newark residents.
Following a five-week trial, the jury deliberated a total of 4 and a half hours Friday and today before returning guilty verdicts.
Assistant Prosecutor Linda Childs, who tried the case, said the murder occurred in the early morning hours of Dec. 26, 2007. Rivera and Ocasio were eating at Andro’s Diner on Wilson Avenue in the Ironbound section of Newark. Fernandez confronted Rivera and Ocasio because they had previously refused to let him into Centro Orensano, a social club where the two friends worked as bouncers.
Angry after being rebuffed, later that night Fernandez followed Rivera and Ocasio as they left the diner at 3:30 a.m., shooting them both three times. Remarkably, Ocasio survived despite being shot in the head. Rivera, who was shot in the back, died from his injuries.
After fleeing to Miami, Fernandez came back to Newark a week later and surrendered to authorities.
“Sadly, on Christmas 2007 Jose Rivera was brutality taken from his beloved family. While this verdict will not bring him back, hopefully, it will bring a measure of justice to the family,’’ said Assistant Prosecutor Childs.
“The surviving victim still, to this day, carries the bullets in his head and chest. He watched his best friend die in the street. No one should have to go through what he endured,’’ said Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Ruzich, who tried the case with Childs.
Acting Prosecutor Laurino lauded Childs, Ruzich and Essex County Prosecutor investigator Consuelo Perez for the outstanding job they did in this case.
Sentencing has been scheduled for Dec. 13 before the Honorable Jerome St. John, J.S.C. (Judge of the Superior Court).
When he is sentenced, Fernandez faces a life sentence for the murder of Rivera and 10 to 30 years for the attempted murder of Ocasio.