MS-13 Member Found Guilty in N.J. School Yard Slayings

NEWARK, N.J.—One of the six men accused of murdering three college-age students in a Newark schoolyard nearly three years ago was found guilty for three murders and one attempted murder.

Rodolfo Godinez, 26, was convicted of the murders of Iofemi Hightower, 20; Dashon Harvey, 20; and Terrance Aerial, 18, who were shot execution-style in the back of the head with a .357-caliber Colt Trooper revolver. Each murder count carries a minimum penalty of 30 years to life in prison; the sentences can be given consecutively.

Three of the victims were students at Delaware State University.

During the trial, one of the victims who survived, Natasha Aeriel, described the Aug. 4, 2007 attack, saying the group had been listening to music behind the Mount Vernon Elementary School when they were attacked, reports the New York Times. Aeriel said she had been sexually assaulted and slashed with a machete before she was shot. The victim was left with partial facial paralysis, difficulty using her jaw, deafness in one ear and chronic pain, despite numerous reconstructive surgeries.

Though Godinez did not testify in the courtroom, the MS-13 gang member’s tape-recorded statement that he made on the night of his arrest was played for the jury. Godinez described the other defendants; admitted to collecting the victims’ valuables when they were robbed; and acknowledged that after the shootings, he and the other ran to his house and then drove away.

His sentencing is scheduled for July 8.

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