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Monroe man indicted for allegedly ‘chopping’ stepfather to death

MONROE — A Monroe Township man has been indicted on charges of killing his stepfather, stealing and using the victim’s credit cards, hiding evidence and fleeing from police.

Joao C. Torres, 26, was charged with the murder of Christopher Ernst Sr., 46, who was found dead on Jan. 4 in a garage room of a home they shared on Garvey Drive in Monroe, according to a statement prepared by Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey after a grand jury sitting in Middlesex County indicted Torres on March 30.

The grand jury also indicted Torres on charges of unlawful possession of a weapon; possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes; disturbing human remains; two counts of obstruction of the administration of law; two counts of hindering his apprehension; two counts of tampering with evidence, and theft of the victim’s 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe, according to the statement.

In addition, the panel charged Torres with unlawful theft of three of the victim’s credit cards and eight counts of fraudulent use of the credit cards to make purchases at five convenience stores, two fast-food restaurants and a gas station, according to Carey.

Police began the investigation when they received a call on Jan. 4 from an individual who was concerned when Torres had failed to report for work, according to officials.

During the investigation, it was determined that Torres allegedly repeatedly struck his stepfather with an unidentified weapon. Ernst was pronounced dead at the scene.

An autopsy by the Middlesex County Medical Examiner’s Office described the injuries as chop wounds, according to the statement.

Police subsequently searched for Torres and allegedly found him in a pickup truck in a section of woods several miles from his home, Carey said.

The indictment was handed up following an investigation by Detective Joseph Silvestri of the Monroe Township Police Department and Detective Craig Marchak of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.

Anyone with information should call Silvestri at 732-521-0222, ext. 151 or Marchak at 732-745-3254.

 

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