NEWARK, N.J. – Authorities have identified a fourth suspect in the execution-style killings of three college students in Newark last weekend, issuing an arrest warrant Saturday for 24-year-old Rodolfo Godinez.
Saturday's developments follow a shocking turn in the investigation Friday. On Friday, FOX 5 New York reported that two of the victims may have been sexually assaulted before they were killed by an illegal immigrant with a violent criminal history.
According to FOX 5 New York, a sexual attack may have occurred before Terrance Aeriel, Iofemi Hightower and Dashon Harvey were shot to death, and a fourth victim, 19-year old Natasha Aerial, was critically wounded.
The suspect in the sexual assault, Peruvian national Jose Carranza, is an illegal immigrant previously charged with raping a 5-year-old. Carranza surrendered to Newark Mayor Cory Booker on Thursday and plead not guilty to to three counts of murder and one charge each of attempted murder and robbery in Essex County Superior Court on Friday.
Carrenza, 28, said through a Spanish interpreter that he understood the charges against him.
Authorities charged a third suspect with three counts of felony murder in the killings Friday evening. The suspect was described as a 15-year-old boy by Essex County prosecutors during a late press conference. He pleaded not guilty Thursday and remains in custody, Assistant Essex County Prosecutor Thomas McTigue said Friday. Authorities are seeking to have the boy tried as an adult.
Another 15-year-old male was charged in the case Thursday.
As the investigation moved forward Saturday, family and friends of the victims gathered to bury the dead. Speaking at the funeral of one of the victims at Metropolitan Baptist Church, Newark Mayor Corey Booker pounded a podium near the coffin of Dashon Harvey, 20, and yelled "Enough is enough!"
Harvey's funeral was part of a morning of funerals on Saturday. Services were also held for Terrance Aeriel, 18, at New Hope Baptist Church. A later funeral was expected at the end of the morning Iofemi Hightower, 20, at Grace Temple Baptist Church.
At Ariel's funeral, which drew an overflow crowd, a friend remembered the ordained minister as someone who reached out to help others even as a youngster.
"As I grew up with him, he never changed," said friend Victoria Irving.
"He stayed the same. He always had God on his mind. That's what I loved about him. And he was a great help to me," Irving said.
The friends were shot during an apparent robbery attempt that authorities have called one of the most disturbing killings in Newark in recent memory.
Terrance Aeriel's sister, Natasha Aeriel, was shot in the head but survived and has helped investigators identify a suspect in the case.
The three victims were ordered to kneel in front of a wall before each was shot in the back of the head, authorities have said.
On Thursday, Booker announced the arrest of Carranza and a 15-year-old male who was not identified because of his age. Another 15-year male was arrested Friday night. The young age of the two teens, and Carranza's criminal history and immigration status, has heightened the outrage in the community.
Carranza was indicted by grand juries in New Jersey twice this year — in April on aggravated assault and weapons charges; and in July on 31 counts which included aggravated sexual assault of a child under 13 years old and endangering the welfare of a child he had a duty to supervise.
He was released on $50,000 bail on the assault case, which stemmed from a barroom fight, and $150,000 bail on the sexual assault indictment, which charged that the abuse began in 2003 when the girl was 4 years old and continued to this year.
Essex County Prosecutor Paula T. Dow would not answer questions about how Carranza was released on bail despite his illegal immigration status and charges earlier this year that he raped a 5-year-old, then threatened the child's parents.
"Our focus hasn't been his immigration status," McTigue said.
Prosecutors said they did not immediately recall if Carranza's immigration status was known when he was granted bail on the two indictments, and whether they opposed granting bail.
It is rare for illegal immigrants to be granted bail, especially when charged with serious crimes, said Alan L. Zegas, a noted New Jersey defense lawyer.
"The level of risk of flight increases exponentially when a person is not a citizen of this country and has few, if any, roots here," Zegas said.
State Superior Court Judge Michael R. Casale continued the $1 million bail and ordered that Carranza be held apart from other inmates at the Essex County Jail for his protection.
On Saturday, scores of students from Delaware State University, where Harvey and the Aeriel siblings were students, attended the funerals, as did Gov. Jon S. Corzine and Sen. Robert Menendez.
"As a human being, not just your governor, I am here with a broken heart, a sad heart, a heavy heart," Corzine said at Harvey's funeral. "These children deserved better."
Speaking at Ariel's funeral, Menendez said the tragedy "has reverberated beyond our city, beyond our state, and across the nation."
All four shooting victims were Newark residents. Hightower, who was in the process of enrolling at Delaware State for the fall semester, and the Aeriels attended West Side High School, while Harvey graduated from University High.
Authorities do not believe the four victims knew the assailants before encountering them Saturday night. Carranza and the teen are not related, Dow said, but she didn't elaborate on how they knew each other. The teen's name was not released because of his age.
Despite being under sedation for periods of time, Natasha Aeriel was able to help authorities identify the suspects, the mayor said.
Officials said fingerprints on a bottle found at the shooting scene and ballistics evidence tied Carranza to the crime. Carranza and the teen were charged with three counts of first degree murder, one count of attempted murder, and other charges.
Authorities have yet to say what kind of weapon was used in the shootings or who they believe fired the shots.