6 Suspects Indicted in Newark Schoolyard Killings

Three men and three teenagers were indicted Monday on murder and other charges for the execution-style slayings that shocked New Jersey's largest city more than a year ago.

The grand jury charged all six suspects, who have reputed links to the MS-13 street gang, with murder, attempted murder, robbery and weapons offenses related to the Aug. 4, 2007 killings.

Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow said the indictments took a year because charges against the three teens were upgraded from juvenile to adult court, and because multiple agencies worked together to make sure the case was airtight.

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Those indicted were Rodolfo Godinez, 25; his 17-year-old brother, Alexander Alfaro; Jose Lachira Carranza, 29; Melvin Jovel, 19; Shahid Baskerville, 16; and Gerardo Gomez, 16. Baskerville and Gomez were both 15 at the time of the killings.

The six suspects are accused of killing Iofemi Hightower, Terrance Aeriel and Dashon Harvey. The three were college students hanging out behind the Mount Vernon School when they were killed.

Dow said robbery and gang involvement were both elements of the case, but declined to say what police believe to be the primary motive. She also said illegal guns — such as the one used in this crime — continue to plague Newark streets.

"This is an important case for us, and we're doing it slowly, but we're doing it the right way," Dow said.

If convicted, Dow said the suspects face multiple life sentences.

Carranza and Baskerville are also charged with sexually assaulting a fourth victim who survived. The woman suffered memory lapses from her injuries and is currently in protective custody, Dow said.

The woman's identity had been disclosed before the sexual assault charges were made, but The Associated Press is no longer naming her because its policy is to not identify accusers in sex assault cases.

The killings shook Newark and spurred a series of reforms including the installation of surveillance cameras in some areas and penalties for gun owners who fail to report lost or stolen weapons.

The outcry over Carranza, an illegal immigrant who was out on bail at the time of the killings despite facing separate assault and child rape charges, led to a directive from the state Attorney General that revamped bail policies for illegal immigrants.

The killings also jump-started a project to put surveillance cameras in high-crime neighborhoods in Newark. About $2 million was raised in the weeks after the killings, and the first cameras were in place by September. More than 100 had been installed by the end of June, and police have credited them with cutting down on violent crime.

Last month, the families of the victims filed a lawsuit against the Newark school district that claimed the Mount Vernon School failed to provide adequate security in a rear courtyard where the victims were killed.

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