Grand Jury Indicts Teens For February Murder Of Child

(Photo courtesy of Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office)

FREEHOLD – A man and his juvenile co-conspirator have been handed down a six-count indictment in the shooting death of a 10-year-old Asbury Park boy.

The Monmouth County grand jury handed down those indictments against 18-year-old Karon Council and 17-year-old Jah-Del K. Birch, both of Neptune Township. They are charged with killing Yovanni Banos-Merino, 10, and injuring his 38-year-old mother, Lilia Merino, on Feb. 21, 2018 on the 400 block of Ridge Avenue.

Neither was the intended target of the shooting. Someone in their home at the time of the shooting was the intended target. That person was not injured, and was not identified in the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office press release.

Council and Birch are charged with first degree conspiracy to commit murder, first degree attempted murder, first degree murder, second degree aggravated assault, second degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, and second degree unlawful possession of a weapon.

Both face decades of time in prison if convicted on each count.

After an intense manhunt, Council was finally arrested in Florida in late February. Birch, who was a member of Neptune Township High School’s class of 2020, was arrested at school. He was being held at the Middlesex County Youth Detention Center, but will be tried as an adult.