HOWELL – An uncle and his nephew have been sentenced to state prison after admitting to killing a man with a machete in 2019 in Howell Township, authorities said.
Omar Rivera-Rojas, 33, along with his nephew, Alberto Rojas-Hernandez, 22, both of Lakewood, were sentenced to 22 and 20 years in state prison, respectively. Each must serve at least 85% of their terms before the possibility of parole under the provisions of New Jersey’s No Early Release Act (NERA), in accordance with the terms set down during a Tuesday sentencing hearing.
On October 18, 2019, 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 Domingo Merino-Rafael, 33, of Lakewood, 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.
During a plea hearing in September 2022, 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. Both pled guilty to single counts of first-degree Aggravated Manslaughter.