Disabled Trenton man’s 2014 violent death remains partially unsolved
One suspect remains at large in the slaying of intellectually disabled Trenton man Rodney Burke, but a larger degree of justice has been served in the murder case.
Three co-defendants who participated in the deadly November 2014 robbery-turned-homicide are serving state prison sentences after admitting their roles in the violent crime.
Jaquan Dallas, 22, of Trenton, fired the fatal shots that took Burke’s life and is serving a 25-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to first-degree aggravated manslaughter.
Self-confessed killer Alexandria “Alexa” Gomez, 33, of Trenton, also known as Alexandra Gomez, is serving 15 years of hard time at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women after pleading guilty to first-degree aggravated manslaughter for directing Burke into harm’s way.
Kenneth Hines, 38, of Trenton, is serving 17 years of incarceration after pleading guilty to first-degree armed robbery as the getaway driver in the plot.
Dallas, Gomez, Hines and a fourth perpetrator who has not yet been captured or identified all conspired to commit an armed robbery that turned into a homicide of 48-year-old Burke, who was gunned down about 2 a.m. Nov. 4, 2014, according to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office.
Police found the victim inside his apartment on the 1000 block of South Broad Street suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. Medics rushed Burke to Saint Francis Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
Burke, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 18, had been repeatedly robbed during the last three years of his life, according to The Trentonian’s award-winning reporting on his life and death. “Around the first of the month when he got his disability check, they would take his money from him,” his mother Gloria Burke told The Trentonian in a November 2014 interview. “He never told me who was doing it; he was scared. They took his money all of the time.”
Burke was originally from New Brunswick but resided in Trenton during the last few years of his life, according to his family. He was often victimized at his former city residence on Hamilton Avenue, prompting him to seek safer housing in another part of Trenton. Greater Trenton Behavioral Healthcare, however, relocated Burke to a troubled South Broad Street apartment that was known to be a hotspot for illegal activity, and Burke was shot and killed several weeks later, according to his family.
A few weeks after the slaying, police arrested Hines Nov. 18, 2014, charging him with accomplice liability murder. Police arrested Gomez the following day as an accomplice to murder and eventually nabbed Dallas on March 31, 2015, charging him with accomplice liability murder, according to court records.
A grand jury handed up an indictment on Aug. 12, 2015, charging the trio with armed robbery, murder and weapons offenses.
Dallas pleaded guilty Sept. 19, 2016, to first-degree aggravated manslaughter, a downgraded offense from the original murder charges. The other charges against Dallas were dismissed when he received his 25-year prison sentence on Nov. 18, 2016. He must serve 85 percent of his sentence behind bars and will be subjected to five years of parole supervision upon release, according to court records.
Mercer County Superior Court Judge Thomas Brown resentenced Dallas on Dec. 1, 2017, hammering him with the same quarter-century length of incarceration. Brown signed a new judgment of conviction on Jan. 24, amending the record to properly reflect that Dallas has 611 days of jail credit and 378 days of prior service credit. Dallas is currently incarcerated at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility and is scheduled to be released on June 15, 2036, according to the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
Hines pleaded guilty to first-degree armed robbery on May 9, 2017. The other charges against him got dismissed on July 7, 2017, when Superior Court Judge Peter Warshaw sentenced him to 17 years of incarceration to be followed by five years of parole supervision, court records show.
Pursuant to the No Early Release Act, Hines must serve 85 percent of his sentence behind bars before he can become eligible for parole. He is currently incarcerated at Mid-State Correctional Facility and is scheduled to be released on April 29, 2029, according to the DOC.
Gomez pleaded guilty to first-degree aggravated manslaughter on April 18, 2016, and had her other charges dismissed when she received a 15-year prison sentence on Aug. 4, 2017. Judge Brown ordered Gomez to serve 85 percent of the sentence behind bars pursuant to the No Early Release Act to be followed by five years of parole supervision.
Brown found mitigating factors that could explain why Gomez got the least amount of incarceration in the case. “The imprisonment of the defendant would entail excessive hardship to herself or her dependents,” Brown said in his judgment of conviction. “The willingness of the defendant to cooperate with law enforcement authorities” is also one of the mitigating factors Brown cited in finding Gomez’s negotiated sentence to be “fair and in the interest of justice.”
Gomez has a history of violent crime. She previously committed first-degree Trenton robberies on Jan. 7, 2003, and Jan. 8, 2003, and got arrested on Jan. 9, 2003. She pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced in May 2004 to 10 years of incarceration to be followed by five years of parole supervision, according to court records.
Gomez served time in state prison from May 14, 2004, to June 19, 2012. She served another stint of incarceration from March 15, 2013, to Aug. 14, 2014, after violating parole. Then she killed Burke three months later by setting him up to get shot. She is currently incarcerated at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women and is scheduled to be released Oct. 28, 2028, according to the state DOC.
Hines, Gomez and Dallas are serving hefty prison sentences, but a fourth suspect remains unidentified and at large. Authorities urge anyone with information on the at-large murder suspect to call the Mercer County Homicide Task Force at (609) 989-6406 or the Trenton Police Department’s Confidential Tip Line at (609) 989-3663.