Two Lakewood Men, an Uncle and Nephew, Indicted on Murder Charges

Two Lakewood men – an uncle and nephew – were indicted by a grand jury in Monmouth County today for murder and various other offenses, including conspiracy to commit murder, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, and tampering with evidence.  

The charges come from an incident on October 18, 2019, in which Juan Carlos Rivera-Rojas, 31, and Alberto Rojas-Hernandez, 19, both of Lakewood, allegedly killed Domingo Merino-Rafael, 33, also from Lakewood, in Howell.

According to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, Howell Township police responded to a 911 caller reporting an unconscious male lying face down in the roadway on Hurley Pond Road. The incident was initially investigated as a fatal hit-and-run incident, but investigators soon determined that his death had not in fact been caused by a vehicle. A post-mortem examination by the Medical Examiner determined that his death was indeed a homicide.

A joint investigation between the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Howell Township Police Department commenced, in which they determined that the deceased man had traveled with the now-indicted men from Lakewood on the evening of the incident, and were returning to Lakewood when they got into an argument which culminated in the uncle and son duo killing Merino-Rafael.

The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office noted that the Lakewood Police Department was extremely helpful during the course of the investigation.

If ultimately convicted of murder, the uncle and nephew each face a minimum sentence of 30 years in New Jersey State Prison without parole and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, subject to the No Early Release Act, which would require them to serve 85% of their sentence before becoming eligible for release on parole.

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