Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino announced that Melvin Jovel aka “Cholo” plead guilty today to three counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, and two weapons charges before the Honorable Michael L. Ravin.
Jovel, 21, of Elizabeth admitted murdering Iofemi Hightower, 20, Dashon Harvey, 20, and Terrance Aeriel, 18. He also pled guilty to attempting to murder the surviving victim, Natasha Aeriel, who was 19 years old at the time of the attack in August of 2007. All four of the victims were Newark residents who were about to return to Delaware State College when they were set upon in the Mount Vernon School yard.
Jury selection was scheduled to begin in Jovel’s case on Friday, Sept. 24, 2010, when he decided to plead guilty. Under the terms of the plea agreement, conspiracy, robbery and additional weapons charges will be dismissed. He faces life imprisonment when he is sentenced.
“With this guilty plea today the victim and the surviving family members are spared one trial and Mr. Jovell will spend the rest of his life behind bars.’’ said lead prosecutor Thomas McTigue. “We can now move on with the prosecution of the remaining cases.’’
In May, Rodolfo Godinez, 27, of Newark – the first defendant to be tried – was found guilty by an Essex County jury on all 17 counts, including murder, felony murder, robbery and weapons offenses. He was sentenced to over 200 years in state prison.
Sentencing in Jovel’s case has been scheduled for November 4, 2010, before Judge Ravin.
Jovel is currently being held at the Essex County Corrections Center.
Four other defendants are awaiting trial. They are Jose Carranza, 31, of Newark; Gerardo Gomez, 18, of Newark; Alexander Alfaro, 20 of Newark; and Shahid Baskerville, 18, of Morristown.
A criminal charge is merely an accusation, and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty.