Crime and Courts

Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.
New Jersey

Arrest Made in Case of Body Found in Middle of Quiet New Jersey Street

Juan Carlos Rivera Rojas, of Lakewood, is accused of killing 33-year-old Domingo Merine Rafael, also of Lakewood, prosecutors said Thursday

What to Know

  • An arrest has been made in the case of a man found dead in the middle of a road in a heavily wooded area in New Jersey last week
  • Law enforcement swarmed the scene after patrolling officers made the discovery on Hurley Pond Road around 3:15 a.m. Friday
  • A law enforcement source says there's evidence to indicate victim may have jumped out of vehicle, then been caught and killed by attackers

A 29-year-old man has been arrested on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of a man who was found in the middle of a quiet New Jersey street last week. The victim appeared to have had his face hacked, a witness reported.

Juan Carlos Rivera Rojas, of Lakewood, is accused of killing 33-year-old Domingo Merine Rafael, also of Lakewood, prosecutors said Thursday.

A person passing through the area came upon the grisly scene on Howell's Hurley Pond Road around 3:15 a.m. Friday. Responding officers initially thought Rafael was a hit-and-run victim, a law enforcement source said. 

It turns out Rafael may have been trying to escape attackers when he jumped out of a car and tried to run, then apparently was caught and murdered, his body left in the middle of the road, the law enforcement source said. 

It wasn't clear if prosecutors were looking for other suspects in Rafael's death, nor did they offer information on a possible motive. 

It wasn't immediately clear if Rojas had an attorney.

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