"Astronomical Sentence" Awaits Schoolyard Murderer

By Brian Thompson
|  Monday, May 24, 2010  |  Updated 8:53 PM EDT
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Newark Schoolyard Killings Verdict

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Rodolfo Godinez watches as the jury returns a verdict.

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Newark Schoolyard Killings Verdict

The first person tried in the Newark schoolyard slayings learned his fate today. Brian Thompson reports.
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Now that the Schoolyard Slayer has been convicted, prosecutors and family members want to make sure he never knows freedom again.

Rodolfo Godinez, 26, will be sentenced July 8th in Essex County, N.J. Superior Court following his conviction Monday for being the ringleader in the gang slaying of 3 Newark college students, Dashon Harvey, Iofemi Hightower and Terrance Aeriel, and the attempted murder and sexual assault of a fourth on August 4th, 2007.

"The sentence itself will probably be astronomical numbers," said Acting Prosecutor Robert Laurino after a jury deliberated a little more than 3 hours before reaching its verdict.

Laurino added that the three murder counts each carry a 30-year term and he will ask they be handed out consecutively.

In the end, Godinez listened impassively as the Foreman said, "The jury finds the defendant guilty" 17 times for the various counts that ranged from murder to conspiracy to robbery to illegal weapons possession.

"This man will never see the light of day," said Laurino.

Family members of the victims controlled their emotion inside the courtroom.

Outside, James Harvey, the father Dashon, called it a "big relief. We've waited for this day for years."

"We believe these executions were carried out to test the mettle of an aspiring gang member," said New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow, who was Essex County Prosecutor when the murders occurred and during the entire investigation.

Five other defendants face separate trials, though there is courthouse speculation that some or all will try to reach some sort of plea deal instead of going to trial now that the gang leader has been convicted.

If not, Laurino said the next trial would begin sometime this fall, and that the surviving victim (whom the Prosecutor and NBCNewYork are not identifying because of the sexual attack on her) will be prepared to testify again.

"She took it good, she took it well," said her father.

The Prosecutor's Office has also offered protection to the families because of MS-13 gang involvement, but on this day,  the surviving victim's father said, "There's no fear, there's no fear."

About Godinez, he added, "For us to see him every day coming into court with a simple smirk on his face and to find out we have the last laugh and what's predicted what will come has truly been a blessing and a healing process for us."

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY.

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