A Monmouth County jury has returned guilty verdicts against Jennifer Sweeney, 38, of Tinton Falls, who arranged to have her girlfriend shot nearly six years ago, hospitalizing the woman, before then fatally strangling the woman several months later and burying her body in a Long Branch backyard, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey has announced.
Linskey said Sweeney was convicted on charges of first degree murder, first degree conspiracy to commit murder, three related weapons offenses, second degree desecration of human remains and fourth degree tampering with physical evidence in connection with the death of Tyrita Julius, 41, of Linden.
The conviction marked the culmination of an approximately month-long trial before state
Superior Court Judge David F. Bauman, sitting in Freehold, according to a press release from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.
“The suffering endured by Tyrita Julius at the hands of someone who was supposed to care for her during the last several months of her life was unspeakable, and while today’s verdict can’t bring Tyrita back, we hope it offers some sense of solace and closure to her friends and family,” Linskey said.
“I would also like to recognize and thank the many police agencies in Monmouth and Union counties that contributed to this investigation, which featured a great number of moving parts and stands out as an excellent example of the power of collaboration in law enforcement,” she said.
According to the press release, at 7:16 p.m. Nov. 24, 2015, members of the Linden Police Department in Union County responded to the 900 block of Middlesex Street in Linden to investigate a report of a shooting.
Upon their arrival, officers found Julius, who had been shot eight times, in the driver’s seat of her vehicle, which had collided with a utility pole a short distance from her residence.
Julius’s teenage daughter was seated in the front passenger seat and had sustained a gunshot wound.
The investigation into the shooting was ongoing when, on March 9, 2016, Julius’s mother reported her daughter missing to the Linden Police Department and to the Long Branch Police Department.
Authorities were told at that time that Julius had been spending time with a female friend in Tinton Falls the day before, but failed to return home later that evening.
Investigators from the Union County Prosecutor’s Office and the Linden Police Department contacted the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office about the investigation on March 11, 2016, and a joint investigation by members from those agencies, as well as from the Union County Police Department, the Union County Sheriff’s Office and the Long Branch, Tinton Falls and New Jersey Transit police departments was initiated, according to the press release.
As a result, on Aug. 16, 2016, Julius’s body was discovered by detectives during the course of a search of the Long Branch residence of 37-year-old Andre Harris – the gunman in the November 2015 shooting of Julius.
Julius’s remains were discovered buried in the backyard, wrapped in two garbage bags, with an electrical cord around her neck, according to the press release.
Sweeney and Harris were subsequently arrested and charged, with a Monmouth County grand jury returning an indictment against each of them in December 2016.
Harris later reached a plea agreement for a state prison term of 16 years, with 85% of that term to be served before the possibility of parole, and agreed to testify during Sweeney’s trial.
Following her conviction, Sweeney now faces a term of up to life in state prison without the possibility of parole. Sentencing in the case has been scheduled for Nov. 19, according to the prosecutor’s office.