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Man pleads guilty in New Jersey schoolyard killings

By Laura Batchelor, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 21-year-old Melvin Jovel accepts plea deal in 2007 deaths
  • He faces life in prison at his sentencing in November
  • Another suspect was found guilty in May and is serving 216 years

New York (CNN) -- The second suspect in brutal Newark, New Jersey, schoolyard slayings pleaded guilty to three counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and weapons charges in Newark Superior Court on Tuesday as part of a plea deal, according to Essex County Prosecutors.

Melvin Jovel, 21, admitted killing Iofemi Hightower, 20, Dashon Harvey, 20, and Terrance Aeriel, 18, in August 2007. He also pleaded guilty to attempting to murder survivor Natasha Aeriel, who was 19 years old at the time of the attack. The victims, who had gathered to socialize behind a school, were made to kneel against a wall before they were shot in the head.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, conspiracy, robbery and additional weapons charges will be dismissed. Jovel faces life imprisonment when he is sentenced November 4.

"With this guilty plea today, the victim and surviving family members are spared one trial," lead prosecutor Thomas McTigue said in a news release. "Mr. Jovel will spend the rest of his life behind bars."

In May, Rodolfo Godinez, the first defendant to be tried in the slayings, was found guilty on all 17 counts. Godinez was involved in gang recruiting and was characterized as the ringleader of the group of defendants who used a handgun and a machete in the school attack.

He is now serving 216 years in state prison.