Omar Rivera-Rojas (also known as Juan Carlos Rivera-Rojas), 31, and his nephew, Alberto Rojas-Hernandez, 19, both of Lakewood, have been indicted by a Monmouth County Grand Jury on charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced on June 1.
Both men have also been indicted on charges of possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, unlawful possession of a weapon and tampering with evidence, according to Linskey.
The Howell Police Department responded to a 911 call at 3:46 a.m. Oct. 18, 2019, from an individual who reported seeing an unconscious man laying in Hurley Pond Road just east of Route 547 in Howell, according to a press release.
Officers who arrived at the scene found a man lying face down in the road. The incident was initially investigated as a fatal hit-and-run motor vehicle incident.
However, upon the arrival of Monmouth County Serious Collision Analysis Response Team investigators, it was determined the man’s death was not the result of a hit-and-run event, according to the press release.
The man, identified as Domingo Merino-Rafael, 33, also of Lakewood, was deceased. Paramedics responded to the scene and Merino-Rafael was pronounced dead at 4:12
a.m. by doctors at Newark Beth Israel Hospital.
Merino-Rafael was taken to the Middlesex County Regional Medical Examiner’s Office where a post-mortem examination performed by Medical Examiner Dr. Allison Mautone and the staff of the Medical Examiner’s Office determined the cause of death was a homicide.
An investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Howell Police
Department determined that Rivera-Rojas, Rojas-Hernandez 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 culminated with the uncle and nephew allegedly killing Merino-Rafael.
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.
Rojas-Hernandez is being held in the Middlesex County Youth Detention Center in North Brunswick, where he has been in custody since his arrest in October 2019.
Rojas-Hernandez, who was seven months shy of his 18th birthday at the time of the murder, was previously waived to adult court to face the charges alongside his uncle and co-conspirator.
Rivera-Rojas has also been detained since his arrest, according to the press release.
If convicted of murder, Rivera-Rojas and Rojas-Hernandez each face a minimum sentence of 30 years in state prison without parole and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, according to the press release.