HOWELL – An uncle and his nephew have admitted to killing a man in 2019 in Howell Township, authorities said.
Omar Rivera-Rojas a.k.a. Juan Carlos Rivera-Rojas, 32, of Lakewood, along with his nephew, Alberto Rojas-Hernandez, 20, also of Lakewood, both pled guilty to first-degree Aggravated Manslaughter charges in connection to the death Domingo Merino-Rafael, 33, also of Lakewood on October 18, 2019.
On that day around 3:46 a.m., police received a 911 call reporting an unconscious man on Hurley Pond Road just east of Route 547. Based on the initial call, it was believed to be a hit and run.
The man was later identified as Merino-Rafael and was pronounced deceased at 4:12 a.m. by doctors. A post-mortem examination was performed and it was determined that the cause of death was a Homicide.
According to police, Rivera-Rojas, Rojas-Hernandez, and Merino-Rafael were traveling from Lakewood to Middlesex County on the evening of October 17, 2019. While returning to Lakewood in the early morning hours of October 18, 2019, the group got into an argument that escalated to the uncle and nephew killing Merino-Rafael.
The two admitted that they each struck Merino-Rafael in the back of the head with a machete; the cause of death was multiple chop wounds to the head.
On September 23, it was announced that both Rivera-Rojas and Rojas-Hernandez pled guilty to first-degree Aggravated Manslaughter charges. At the time of sentencing, the State will recommend 22 years in a New Jersey State Prison for Rivera-Rojas. For Rojas-Hernandez, the State will recommend 20 years in a New Jersey State Prison.
The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Howell Township Police Department also credited the Lakewood Police Department and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office for their assistance during the investigation.