A Union County jury has returned guilty verdicts against a man responsible for the violent robbery of a Linden shoe store a little more than four years ago, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Thursday.
Mervin Fitzgerald, 51, of Edison, was convicted on charges of first-degree kidnapping and second-degree robbery following deliberations spread over two days and a two-week trial.
Authorities said at approximately 7:40 p.m. on New Year’s Eve in 2012, two men entered the Payless shoe store off of U.S. Routes 1&9 in Linden and forced two then-18-year-old female employees into a back room, where they were ordered at gunpoint to lay down on the floor while they were tied together, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Kathleen Dillon, who prosecuted the case.
The two suspects subsequently made off with approximately $200 in cash, and a customer found the bound employees shortly after that and called 911, Dillon said.
Through the examination of DNA evidence and eyewitness accounts, a Linden Police Department investigation led by now-retired Detective Eddie Adams and Detective David Kother resulted in Fitzgerald being identified as a suspect in the case, and he was arrested and charged in April 2014, with bail set at $200,000. Fitzgerald was indicted in August 2014 before the case proceeded to trial.
The other suspect in the robbery remains at large.
Sentencing in the case has been scheduled for May 12, 2017, before state Superior Court Judge Regina Caulfield.
Convictions on first-degree kidnapping offenses are commonly punishable by terms of up to 30 years in state prison.