Tinton Falls woman sentenced to prison for murdering girlfriend

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A Tinton Falls woman who arranged to have her girlfriend shot before fatally strangling the woman several months later and burying her body in a Long Branch backyard has been sentenced to 95 years in prison for the crimes, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced on May 7.

Jennifer Sweeney, 38, must serve a minimum of 85% of both the 75-year life term for the murder of 41-year-old Tyrita Julius and the 20-year term for the shooting, under the provisions of New Jersey’s No Early Release Act, meaning Sweeney will not become eligible for parole until she is more than 100 years old, according to a press release from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.

“This sentencing is a fitting outcome to the prosecution of genuinely monstrous crimes,” Linskey said. “This defendant’s actions were callous, calculated and vicious, and ended the life of a woman beloved by her family and friends. I sincerely thank the detectives and assistant prosecutors who worked so diligently over so many years to see that justice was done in this case.”

Just after 7 p.m. on 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’ teenage daughter was in the front passenger seat of the vehicle, having also sustained a gunshot wound, according to the prosecutor’s office.

The investigation into the shooting was ongoing when, on March 9, 2016, Julius’ mother reported her daughter missing to the Linden Police Department and to the Long Branch Police Department.

Authorities were told at that time that Tyrita had been spending time with a female friend in Tinton Falls on March 8, 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 and a joint investigation by members from those agencies, as well as 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.

On Aug. 16, 2016, Tyrita Julius’ body was discovered by detectives during the course of a search of the Long Branch residence of 38-year-old Andre Harris – the gunman in the November 2015 shooting.

Julius’ remains were discovered buried in the backyard, wrapped in two garbage bags, with an electrical cord around her neck.

Sweeney and Harris were subsequently arrested and charged, with a Monmouth County grand jury returning an indictment against each in December 2016, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Harris later reached a plea agreement and agreed to testify during Sweeney’s trial; he was sentenced on May 6 to 16 years in prison, in accordance with the plea, with 85% of that term to be served before the possibility of parole.

In September 2021, following a month-long trial before Superior Court Judge David F. Bauman, sitting in Freehold, a jury found Sweeney guilty on charges of first degree
murder, first degree conspiracy to commit murder, first degree attempted murder,
three related weapons offenses, second degree desecration of human remains and
fourth degree tampering with physical evidence, according to the prosecutor’s office.