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Sentencing set for man in New Jersey schoolyard triple slaying

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The shooting took place in Newark in 2007
  • Four teens were lined against a school wall and three shot dead
  • Godinez is the first defendant to stand trial
  • He was found guilty in May on 17 counts

(CNN) -- A man convicted of lining up four teenagers against an elementary school wall and fatally shooting three of them execution-style is expected to be sentenced in a New Jersey courtroom Thursday.

Rodolfo Godinez, 26, was convicted in May on 17 counts, including murder, for his role in the schoolyard slaying in Newark. He was the first of the six suspects to go on trial.

The lone survivor of the attack -- Natasha Aerial -- testified at the trial about the attack behind the Mt. Vernon Elementary School in August 2007.

Her brother, Terrence, and her friends, Iofemi Hightower and Dashon Harvey, were killed. They found slumped against the schoolyard wall with bullets through the back of their heads, prosecutors said.

All of them were either students or about to be enrolled at Delaware State University.

Ballistic evidence, information from Aerial and a fingerprint lifted from a beer bottle at the scene led to the major break in the case that outraged a city numbed by street violence.

By the time the attacks took place, the city had already recorded 60 killings that year.