Man accused of killing 2 men during Trenton crime spree rejects plea deal

A man accused of murdering two men during a crime spree rejected a plea deal on Friday.

Randy Kareem Washington is set to face trial in June for the murder of 64-year-old Silas Johnson. It is alleged that Washington was gunned down Johnson near the intersection of Market Street and the Route 1 overpass on the morning of Oct. 29, 2014.

Randy Kareem Washington

Randy Kareem Washington

The terms of the plea deal offered to 35-year-old Randy Washington would have him serving 30 years on each of the murders. Those sentences would run consecutively for a 60 year prison sentence. Friday’s rejection could set Washington up for a life sentence if convicted.

Washington is accused in a litany of offenses that occurred from July to October of 2014. Included in those offenses is the Oct. 29 slaying of Silas Johnson and the July 30 shooting death of George Jamison, 43. He is also facing charges in five robberies that occurred in the city during the crime spree.

On Friday Assistant Prosecutor Stacey Geurds outlined some of the evidence that will be presented at trial including text messages from Washington to his girlfriend, eyewitness testimony and a bloody sweatshirt found at Silas Johnson murder scene. In 2014 Geurds referred to Washington as a “terror” and cited his criminal record indicating five prior convictions, including ones for second-degree aggravated assault and making threats of violence, prosecutors said.

His current attorney Diane Lyons said at Friday’s hearing she intended to file suppression motions with regard to a warrantless search, and a search where a warrant was obtained in a bid to exclude evidence at trial.

Jury selection is set to begin on June 6.

Two teens indicted in the 2016 killing of Ricardo Montalvan

Two teens have been indicted in the murder of Ricardo Montalvan Jr., the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office said on Friday.

Ricardo Montalvan Jr.

Ricardo Montalvan Jr.

Prosecutors said that Divon Ray, 17, and Zakeem Brown, 18, were each indicted on one count of first-degree murder, one count of first-degree felony murder, one count of first-degree robbery, one count of second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and one count of second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon.

In 2016, the pair were waived up to adult court from juvenile, the Prosecutor’s office said.
Montalvan was shot in a parking lot in the 200 block of Whittakter Avenue on May 11, 2016 around 9:50 p.m.
The 23-year-old victim was found inside of a silver Toyota Camry with at least one gunshot wound.

Montalvan was transported to Capital Health Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at 10:15 p.m.
Assistant Prosecutor Timothy Ward presented the case to the grand jury.

City man sentenced to 12 years in 2014 stabbing death of Alberto Saquic

When all was said and done Ernier Pacheco was sentenced to 12 years in state prison.

Ernier Pacheco

Ernier Pacheco

He plead to aggravated manslaughter in the 2014 stabbing death of 21-year-old Alberto Saquic outside of Chapala II on Morris Avenue. Pacheco was 18 at the time of the stabbing.

Speaking through an interpreter, Pacheco apologized to Alberto Saquic’s family.
“First of all, I’d like to apologize to the victim’s family for my actions,” Pacheco said. “It was never my intent for this to happen.” The 19-year-old said that he feels he is older now and has a different frame of mind than he did on the night that Saquic died.

He also apologized to the court, to which Judge Peter Warshaw replied “you don’t have to apologize to me.”
Saquic’s brother had intended to be in court, but a work conflict prevented him from being able to attend.

Assistant Prosecutor Kathleen Petrucci said that she’d relate Pacheco’s apology to the family, but noted that Friday appeared to be the first time that Pacheco had expressed remorse for his actions.

Judge Warshaw sentenced the 20-year-old in accordance with his plea agreement, but he was given jail credit for 873 days.He’d already spent in prison. Under the terms of his plea agreement he’ll have to serve 85 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for release. Typically, aggravated manslaughter carries between 10 to 30 years in prison.

Masiyah Howard’s murder trial approaches in brazen 2013 Chambersburg slaying

Alleged killer Masiyah Howard will soon have his day in court.

Howard’s murder trial is scheduled to begin 10 a.m. May 4 at the Mercer County Criminal Courthouse before Superior Court Judge Andrew Smithson.

Howard, 21, of Trenton, is accused of shooting and killing 25-year-old Louis Bryan Alvarez in the city’s Chambersburg neighborhood on Feb. 26, 2013. Police arrested him days later on unrelated robbery charges and then gained probable cause to charge him with murder and weapons offenses.

The homicide victim was a Guatemalan native who worked in Trenton and lived on Fulton Street. On the night of the slaying, Howard went to Alvarez’s residence to confront him and then fired a shot through a glass window after the victim had slammed the door shut about 9:50 p.m., police alleged.

Louis Bryan Alvarez

Louis Bryan Alvarez

Trenton cops arrived on scene to find Alvarez unresponsive, suffering from a gunshot wound to the torso. Medics rushed Alvarez to Capital Health Regional Medical Center, where he died about an hour later.

Police say Howard committed two separate robberies in February 2013 leading up to his alleged fatal gunplay that month. He is accused of robbing a Trenton deli and robbing another man. Police arrested him on March 2, 2013, first charging him with the robbery counts and then hammering him with murder charges.

Howard was 17 at the time of his arrest but is being tried as an adult.

Defense attorney Steven Lember is representing Howard; Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Heather Hadley is trying the case for the state.

Five indicted in Lyft murder of Amber Dudley

Amber Dudley

Amber Dudley

Five people were indicted last week in the murder of 27-year-old Amber Dudley, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office said on Wednesday. Read more

Trenton teen waived up as adult in Lance Beckett slaying case

Lance Beckett (Facebook photo)

Lance Beckett (Facebook photo)

On Friday, a 17-year-old was waived up as an adult in connection with the murder of 19-year-old Lance Beckett.
Beckett was shot and killed on September 18, 2016 on East Stuyvesant Avenue in Trenton.

Mada Eoff, 17, appeared via telephone from the Juvenile Detention Center in Middlesex County, at an initial appearance where assistant prosecutor William Fisher advised the court the State has filed for a detention hearing to have him held under the state’s new criminal justice reform rules.

Fisher advised the court that by statute there is a presumption of detention in this case.

Eoff was arrested in September of last year along with 18-year-old Quashawn Emanuel, both are Trenton residents.

The teens were pair was charged with murder, possession of a weapon, and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. The teens are part of a trio that allegedly shot Beckett before stomping on his head. Also arrested in the case was 34-year-old Omar Kennedy who is accused of stomping Beckett after he’d been shot down. At an October 27, 2016, assistant prosecutor Tim Ward said that Kennedy stomped on Beckett’s head “to ensure he was dead,” while he bled out in a wooded area near East Stuyvesant Avenue.
Four shots were fired, but it’s not clear who fired the fatal shot, however.

Eoff’s hearing is set for April 11 in front of Judge Peter Warshaw.

At Friday’s hearing the teen’s attorney entered a plea of not guilty, and asked for any and all discovery to adequately defend the teen at his detention hearing.

Alleged Lyft murder gunman: Detaining me without bail means I may lose my home

Ronderrick Manuel

Ronderrick Manuel

The fourth defendant arrested and charged in connection with last year’s Lyft rideshare murder has such an extensive history of failing to appear in court and such high New Jersey public safety risk assessment scores that a judge easily ordered him to remain incarcerated at the Mercer County jail without bail.

Hauled into a courtroom in his orange jumpsuit, Ronderrick Manuel, 43, of Trenton, appeared at his detention hearing Tuesday and attempted to portray himself as a hardworking man who would potentially lose his Chambersburg home if placed on pretrial detention.

Manuel, through his public defender Nicole Carlo, said he works two area jobs allowing him to afford his housing expenses and suggested he would be happy to be released on home detention and electronic ankle bracelet monitoring.

Superior Court Judge Peter Warshaw, however, said Manuel’s willingness to submit to electronic monitoring is “not sufficient” to warrant his release. “This is a serious, serious criminal history,” he said of Manuel’s record.

A regional U.S. Marshals task force arrested Manuel on Sunday, March, 26, on allegations he shot and killed Lyft rideshare passenger Amber Dudley, 27, of Collingswood, last November in a grisly robbery-turned-murder in Trenton.

The three other defendants in the case — Andrew Alston, Kasey Dezolt and Dominique Richter — have been charged with accomplice liability murder while Manuel is being prosecuted as the alleged principal gunman responsible for Dudley’s violent death on Nov. 30, 2016.

The state filed its detention motion against Manuel on the grounds that the defendant had very high risk assessment scores under New Jersey’s automated Public Safety Assessment or PSA that ranks the potential risk of a defendant failing to appear in court and the risk of a defendant committing new criminal activity and violence.

Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Grillo cited Manuel’s high PSA scores and noted that the murder charges against the defendant means “this is a case where there is a presumption of detention.”

To be released pretrial, Manuel would have needed to provide the judge with a very convincing rebuttal to the state’s motion and PSA recommendation calling for his detention.

Carlo, Manuel’s public defender, argued her client “does not present a flight risk” and said Manuel has ties to the community through his family and through his home ownership on the 100 block of Anderson Street and his employment at a halal meat market and wireless gadgets shop.

But Warshaw reviewed Manuel’s record and found the defendant had one failure to appear in the last two years and 11 failures to appear in court from 2002 to 2012 and that Manuel has previously served time in prison on serious charges.

Manuel committed statutory rape in another state and a couple of burglaries in the 1990s, according to records Warshaw read in court. The statutory rape conviction requires Manuel to register as a sex offender, but Warshaw said Manuel has a history of failing to comply with the registration requirement.

By having very high risk assessment scores, Warshaw said that “obviously demonstrates in and of itself compelling evidence” for why it was appropriate and fitting for Manuel to be indefinitely incarcerated at the Mercer County Correction Center without bail pending final resolution of his murder case that could end with an acquittal, conviction, plea deal or dismissal of all charges.

As such, Warshaw signed the detention order but said Manuel has the right to appeal the decision.

Manuel has a pre-indictment conference scheduled for Monday, May 8, before Superior Court Judge Robert Bingham II.

Suspended driver charged with striking, killing Trenton crossing guard appears in court

The suspended driver accused of striking and killing a Trenton crossing guard last year in a high-profile case of vehicular homicide appeared in court Monday for a post-indictment arraignment.

The legal proceeding lasted less than two minutes as defense attorney Kristy L. Bruce from the Hamilton-based Rubinstein Law Firm represented Duane Bennett at his arraignment.

“We waive the formal reading of the arraignment,” Bruce said, utilizing a procedural step that avoided the drama of Bennett’s charges being recited before the court.

Duane Bennett

Duane Bennett

A grand jury last month indicted Bennett, 43, of Upper Freehold, on one count of second-degree death by auto and one count of third-degree unlicensed driver causing death to another in connection with the death of Antonio Wiley, 56, on April 18, 2016, at the Route 129 and Lalor Street intersection.

Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Brown asked whether the state has offered any initial plea deals to Bennett, who could serve up to 10 years in prison if convicted on the death by auto charge.

Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor James Scott said the state had not yet presented Bennett with a plea bargain, adding, “I found out that this was assigned to me on Friday, so I have not had an opportunity to meet with the victim’s family, but I will extend it for the next status conference.”

The judge scheduled a status conference for May 15.

Alleged gunman in Lyft murder misses court appearance due to illness

The fourth defendant to be arrested and charged in connection with last year’s murder of Amber Dudley did not appear in court Thursday for his scheduled detention hearing.

Ronderrick Manuel, 45, of Trenton, waived his court appearance on Thursday due to illness, according to his public defender Nicole Carlo.

Ronderrick Manuel

Ronderrick Manuel

Prosecutors are seeking to keep Manuel locked up without bail at the Mercer County jail on allegations he shot and killed Lyft rideshare passenger Amber Dudley last November in a grisly robbery-turned-murder. But prosecutors, instead of explaining why they want Manuel to be detained indefinitely pretrial, said nothing of substance at Manuel’s hearing on Thursday.

Prosecutors signaled they were not prepared to proceed with the detention hearing on Thursday, so a judge postponed the hearing to resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday, April 4, before Mercer County Superior Court Judge Peter Warshaw.

While Manuel did not appear in court on Thursday, he apparently did make an initial court appearance earlier this week via video link. However, neither the press nor the general public was permitted to attend that initial arraignment on Tuesday due to the courtroom’s doors being locked in error, according to New Jersey Judiciary spokesman Pete McAleer. The legal proceeding, known as a CJP or Central Judicial Processing hearing, was supposed to be conducted in open court, not under the cloak of secrecy.

Manuel is the latest defendant to be arrested in connection with the murder of Dudley, 27, of Collingswood. The other defendants — Andrew Alston, Kasey Dezolt and Dominique Richter — have been charged with accomplice liability murder while Manuel is being prosecuted as the alleged principal gunman responsible for Dudley’s violent death in Trenton on Nov. 30, 2016.

Police arrested Manuel last week on allegations he burglarized a Ewing property and re-arrested him on Sunday night to face charges of murder, robbery and weapons offenses.

When Manuel finally has his detention hearing, prosecutors will likely argue he is a flight risk and too dangerous to the public to be released on any conditions. Manuel’s previous criminal history may also be cited at the hearing as well as his actual age.

The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office originally said Manuel was born on Dec. 17, 1973, but court records indicate he was born on Dec. 17, 1971.

Prosecutors want latest Lyft murder defendant to be jailed without bail

Ronderrick Manuel

Ronderrick Manuel

Prosecutors are seeking to keep Ronderrick Manuel locked up without bail at the Mercer County jail on allegations he shot and killed Lyft rideshare passenger Amber Dudley last fall in a grisly robbery-turned-murder.

Prosecutors have filed the motion for pretrial detention earlier this week when Manuel, 43, of Trenton, made his first court appearance Tuesday via video link. He was arrested last week on allegations he burglarized a Ewing property and re-arrested Sunday night to face charges of murder, robbery and weapons offenses.

Manuel is the fourth defendant to be arrested in connection with the murder of Dudley, 27, of Collingswood. The other defendants — Andrew Alston, Kasey Dezolt and Dominique Richter — have been charged with accomplice liability murder while Manuel is being prosecuted as the alleged principal gunman responsible for Dudley’s violent death in Trenton on Nov. 30, 2016.

Neither the press nor the general public was permitted to attend Manuel’s initial arraignment on Tuesday due to the courtroom’s doors being locked in error, according to New Jersey Judiciary spokesman Pete McAleer.

Under New Jersey’s bail reform procedures that went into effect on Jan. 1, newly arrested defendants are supposed to be provided with a first court appearance within 48 hours. Mercer County’s first court appearance arraignments — called CJP or Central Judicial Processing hearings — are supposed to be open to the public either in the actual courtroom or through the state’s online Virtual Court.

Manuel’s first court appearance on Tuesday was not streamed live on the Virtual Court. Thus, the courtroom’s doors being locked in error had the real effect of preventing the general public from observing Manuel’s legal proceeding — a proceeding that was supposed to be conducted in open court, not under the cloak of secrecy.

Homicide Watch Trenton has belatedly learned that a judge scheduled Manuel’s detention hearing to be held Thursday afternoon at Superior Court Judge Peter Warshaw’s courtroom. That hearing will decide whether Manuel remains incarcerated without bail or if he is released with conditions.