Hamilton man gets 16 years for Chambersburg slaying

The triggerman who shot and killed Emilio Lopez during a 2012 robbery in Trenton’s Chambersburg neighborhood has been sentenced to 16 years of incarceration.

Emmanuel Cruz

Emmanuel Cruz

Emmanuel Cruz, 32, of Hamilton, is currently booked at the Central Reception and Assignment Facility in Ewing Township and must serve 85 percent of the sentence behind bars before being eligible for parole, records show.

Cruz pleaded guilty to first-degree aggravated manslaughter last month, admitting he fatally shot the 34-year-old victim near the intersection of Kent and Division streets on Nov. 16, 2012.

Cruz was the fourth and final defendant arrested in the case. He took responsibility for the homicide, while the original three co-defendants pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery. 

Kenneth C. Rivera, 26, of Trenton; Jose Rivera, 26, of Trenton; and Roberto Cruz, 38, of Trenton, are scheduled to be sentenced next month for their roles in the violent crime against Lopez. The self-confessed robbers are cousins, and all of them identified Emmanuel Cruz as the triggerman.

(From left) Kenneth Rivera, Jose Rivera and Roberto Cruz

(From left) Kenneth Rivera, Jose Rivera and Roberto Cruz

Surveillance video of the slaying showed Lopez walking down the street and getting shot while four robbers surrounded him, according to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office. Lopez was rushed to Capital Health Regional Medical Center, where he ultimately died from his fatal wounds.

Within 48 hours of the slaying, police arrested Kenneth Rivera, Jose Rivera and Roberto Cruz, charging the trio with murder. Authorities four years later arrested Emmanuel Cruz on murder charges after the three original co-defendants became state cooperating witnesses.

One of the robbers, Roberto Cruz, is Emmanuel Cruz’s brother.

An indictment handed up in April 2017 charged Emmanuel Cruz with first-degree murder, first-degree murder during the commission of a crime, first-degree armed robbery, second-degree unlawful possession of a handgun without a permit to carry, second-degree possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose and second-degree certain persons not to have a weapon due to a prior conviction.

Emmanuel Cruz pleaded guilty to an amended count of aggravated manslaughter Nov. 4, and Superior Court Judge Darlene Pereksta sentenced him to 16 years of state incarceration on Dec. 13. He will be subjected to five years of parole supervision upon release, according to the judgment of conviction.

In accordance with the negotiated plea agreement, Pereksta dismissed the remaining counts in the indictment against Emmanuel Cruz. She further ordered him to pay more than $5,000 in restitution to the Victims of Crime Compensation Office and gave him 30 days to file a motion of opposition if he objects to the amount imposed.

Emmanuel Cruz received 1,089 days of jail credit for being in custody from Dec. 19, 2016, to Dec. 12, 2019, on $1 million cash bail, records show.

Emmanuel Cruz ( New Jersey Department of Corrections Photo)

Emmanuel Cruz ( New Jersey Department of Corrections Photo)

Cruz previously pleaded guilty in 2012 to fourth-degree aggravated assault with a firearm and was sentenced to 18 months in jail. He also has one prior municipal court conviction and one outstanding bench warrant in Trenton, according to public records.

Defense attorney David P. Schroth represented Emmanuel Cruz at the Dec. 13 sentencing hearing. Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Grillo handled the case.

Emmanuel Cruz is scheduled to be released from state prison on July 25, 2030, according to the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

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