Teenager charged with murder waived to adult court

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A judge has ruled that a teenager who has been charged in the October 2019 death of a man whose body was found laying in a road in Howell will now face those charges in adult court, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni announced on Sept. 15.

State Superior Court Judge Richard W. English, sitting in Freehold, waived Alberto Rojas
Hernandez, now 18, of Lakewood, from family court up to adult court to face charges of first degree conspiracy to commit murder, first degree murder, third degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and fourth degree unlawful possession of a weapon, Gramiccioni said.

Rojas Hernandez is being held in the Middlesex County Youth Detention Center, North Brunswick. He has been held since his arrest in October. Rojas Hernandez is scheduled to have a first appearance and detention hearing on Sept. 17.

If convicted of murder, Rojas Hernandez faces a minimum sentence of 30 years in a New
Jersey state prison without parole and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Rojas Hernandez’s uncle, Juan Carlos Rivera Rojas (also known as Omar Rivera Rojas), 29, of Lakewood, was previously charged with first degree murder. On Nov. 12, 2019, Rivera Rojas was ordered detained pending trial by state Superior Court Judge Paul X. Escandon, sitting in Freehold.

The Howell Police Department responded to a 911 call at 3:46 a.m. Oct. 18, 2019, reporting an unconscious male laying in Hurley Pond Road just east of Route 547.

Officers who arrived at the scene found a Hispanic male laying face down in the road. The incident was initially investigated as a fatal hit and run motor vehicle incident.

However, upon the arrival of investigators from the Monmouth County Serious Collision Analysis Response Team, it was determined the man’s death was not the result of a hit and run event, according to Gramiccioni.

The man, identified as Domingo Merino Rafael, 33, of Lakewood, was deceased. An autopsy determined the cause of death was homicide.

A joint investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Howell Police Department determined Rojas Hernandez, Rivera Rojas and Merino Rafael traveled from
Lakewood to Middlesex County on the evening of Oct. 17, 2019.

The men were returning to Lakewood in the early morning hours of Oct. 18, 2019, when they got into an argument that allegedly culminated with the murder of Merino Rafael, according to Gramiccioni.

The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Howell Police Department credited the Lakewood Police Department and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office for their
assistance during the investigation.