Defendant Found Guilty in Newark Schoolyard Killings

Newark schoolyard killings defendant found guilty of felony murder, robbery

Published: Tuesday, February 14, 2012, 4:02 PM     Updated: Tuesday, February 14, 2012, 4:10 PM

Carranza jury deliberations
EnlargeJose Carranza is escorted from the courtroom as the jury continues deliberating at the Essex County Courthouse in Newark. Jose Carranza, 32, is one of six defendants charged with murder, robbery and other offenses in connection with the attack at Mount Vernon School that left three people dead . Newark, NJ 2/9/12 John O'Boyle/The Star-LedgerJury deliberations continue in the Jose Carranza trial gallery (6 photos)
NEWARK — A jury today found a man charged in connection with the Newark schoolyard slayings guilty of felony murder of three college-bound friends.
Jose Carranza, 32, of Newark was also found guilty of the robbery of three students, including a fourth who was the lone survivor of the attack. He was found not guilty of sexually assaulting the survivor, 19-year-old Natasha Ariel.
Prosecutors say Carranza, one of six men accused in the killings, was there when they were killed.
He was accused of sexually assaulting one of the victims and then using a 12-inch machete to slash at her neck. The victim, 19-year-old Natasha Ariel, survived the attack.
Prosecutors said a fingerprint of Carranza’s was found on a still-cold bottle of beer at the murder scene. And Aeriel identified him in a series of photographs from her hospital bed.
Carranza, 32, is charged with murder, attempted murder, robbery and other offenses. Unlike his co-defendants, Carranza is also charged with the sexual assault of Aeriel.
Aeriel’s brother, Terrance Aeriel, 18, and her friends, Iofemi Hightower and Dashon Harvey, both 20, all died from gunshots to the head. They were all either attending or planning to attend Delaware State University that fall.
Two of the six accused – Rodolfo Godinez, 28, and Alexander Alfaro, 21 – were convicted by a jury and are serving life sentences. Baskerville and another defendant, Melvin Jovel, 22, pleaded guilty; Jovel is serving a life sentence and Baskerville accepted a 30-year sentence in exchange for testifying at Carranza’s trial and the trial of the remaining defendant, Gerardo Gomez, 19.
Baskerville, 20, testified during Carranza’s trial that the 32-year-old sexually assaulted Natasha Aeriel and slashed her neck with a 12-inch kitchen knife. In exchange for his testimony, Baskerville will likely be sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Carranza trial closing arguments
EnlargeJose Carranza in the courtroom during his trial at the Essex County Courthouse in Newark. Jose Carranza, 32, is one of six defendants charged with murder, robbery and other offenses in connection with the attack at Mount Vernon School that left three people dead. Newark, NJ. 2/6/12 John O'Boyle / The Star- LedgerJose Carranza trial closing arguments gallery (6 photos)
Baskerville said the group had been celebrating Gomez’s 15th birthday that August 4 night the killings took place nearly five years ago.
Prosecutors say all six defendants charged in the shootings have ties to a Central American gang known as MS-13 and they believe the murders were gang-related.
Carranza, an illegal immigrant from Peru, is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence in an unrelated aggravated assault case and was free on bail when the killings occurred.
Authorities say Carranza’s fingerprint, found on a 40-ounce bottle of Colt 45, places him at the scene of the murders. His attorney argued that a fingerprint alone does not indicate whether he participated in the attack.

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