By: Yuritza Arroyo
Monmouth County authorities announced that two relatives responsible for the 2019 machete killing of an Ocean County man in Howell have been sentenced.
According to authorities, Omar Rivera-Rojas, 33, and his nephew, Alberto Rojas-Hernandez, 21, both of Lakewood, were sentenced to 22 and 20 years in state prison, respectively.
Authorities say each must serve at least 85 percent of their terms before the possibility of parole under the provisions of New Jersey’s No Early Release Act (NERA), in accordance with the terms set down during a Tuesday sentencing hearing.
Members of the Howell Township Police Department responded to a 911 call shortly after 3:45 a.m. on Friday, October 18, 2019, following up on a report of an unconscious male laying prone in Hurley Pond Road, just east of County Route 547.
Upon their arrival, a man, later identified as 33-year-old Domingo Merino-Rafael of Lakewood, was located at the scene, unresponsive and obviously deceased.
Initially suspected to be a hit-and-run event, Investigators from the Serious Collison Analysis Response Team (SCART) responded but quickly determined that the victim’s injuries were inconsistent with a motor vehicle collision and were the result of a homicide.
According to officials, the post-mortem examination confirmed the manner of death to be a homicide, and the cause of death identified as multiple chop wounds.
Officials say a joint investigation by members of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and Howell Township Police Department quickly determined that Rivera-Rojas, Rojas-Hernandez, and Merino-Rafael had traveled from Lakewood to Middlesex County on the evening of Thursday, October 17, 2019.
The men were returning to Lakewood early the following day when they got into an argument that culminated with the uncle and nephew killing Merino-Rafael.
Rivera-Rojas was arrested on Tuesday, October 22, 2019, and lodged in the Monmouth County Correctional Institution (MCCI).
According to authorities, two and a half weeks later, Rojas-Hernandez was taken into custody and brought to the Middlesex County Juvenile Detention Center due to the fact that he was 17 at the time. Rojas-Hernandez was subsequently waived to adult court to face prosecution alongside his uncle.
During a plea hearing taking place in September 2022, both men admitted that they each took a turn striking the victim in the back of the head with a machete, pleading guilty to single counts of first-degree Aggravated Manslaughter.