3 murder trials heating up in Mercer County
Three murder trials are heating up in the Mercer County Criminal Courthouse.
Alberto Lopez, 21, of Trenton, is finally having his day in court after being arrested nearly five years ago and held on $750,000 cash bail on murder charges.
Lopez was 16 when he shot 17-year-old Shamere Melvin in the head during a botched robbery on the 300 block of North Clinton Avenue in Trenton’s North Ward Dec. 18, 2013, prosecutors said. The victim died from his injuries and police arrested Lopez the following day.
Facing prosecution as an adult, Lopez’s murder trial commenced this week before Mercer County Superior Court Judge Robert Billmeier.
Public defender Jason C. Matey is representing Lopez, who has been indicted on five criminal charges that include first-degree murder, first-degree murder during the commission of a crime, first-degree armed robbery, second-degree possession of a firearm for unlawful purposes, and second-degree unlawful possession of a handgun. Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Grillo is prosecuting the case on behalf of the state.
Anthony L. Concepcion hopes to get acquitted in his city murder trial, which is getting underway before Mercer County Superior Court Judge Darlene Pereksta.
Concepcion, 26, of Trenton, was out on bail on a gun charge when he allegedly shot and killed 39-year-old Patrick Walker outside of La Guira Bar on Dec. 13, 2014. Police arrested Concepcion Jan. 6, 2015, in connection with the homicide. An indictment eventually charged him with first-degree murder, second-degree possession of a firearm for unlawful purposes, and second-degree unlawful possession of a handgun.
Public defender Jessica Lyons is representing Concepcion, a convicted felon already serving time in state prison for pleading guilty to unlawful possession of a handgun. He illegally possessed a handgun in Trenton on Sept. 30, 2014, getting promptly arrested for the offense. He posted $50,000 cash bail on Oct. 22, 2014, buying his way out of jail only to get re-arrested several weeks later on murder charges, according to court records.
Concepcion’s bail was set at $750,000 full bond or cash in the homicide case, but he remains in DOC custody as a self-confessed gunman while his murder case revs up. Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Michelle Gasparian is prosecuting Concepcion in the murder case. The defendant faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder. Concepcion is currently scheduled to be released from South Woods State Prison on March 20, 2019.
Carlos Ortiz, 52, of Ewing, is currently on trial on charges he murdered his girlfriend at their township residence nearly two years ago.
Ortiz got into an argument with 51-year-old Rufina Castro, bludgeoned her with a Corona beer bottle, wrapped a phone cord charger around her neck and strangled her to death inside their township home on the 300 block of Ewingville Road on Aug. 16, 2016, prosecutors alleged. He fled the home in a Ford Explorer after stacking clothes and blankets on top of his deceased girlfriend, prosecutors said.
Castro’s body was discovered one day later, Aug. 17, 2016, after police were called to the residence about 3 a.m. for a welfare check. Officers found her body in the bedroom. Police later that day found Ortiz’s SUV outside of a hotel in Belleville and arrested him, according to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office. He could serve 30 years to life in prison if convicted on the heaviest charges.
A grand jury indicted Ortiz last summer on seven counts, including first-degree purposeful murder, second-degree aggravated assault, two counts of third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, two counts of fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, and third-degree theft by unlawful taking of movable property.
Public defender Amber Forrester is representing Ortiz, who is being prosecuted by Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Sean McMurtry in a trial by jury before Mercer County Superior Court Judge Anthony Massi.
Ortiz, who previously served time in jail and state prison for committing a July 2010 robbery in Bayonne and distributing drugs in Jersey City in July 2009, has been held on $1 million cash bail since his arrest on Aug. 17, 2016.