US & Canada

Life term for killer of three in New Jersey schoolyard

Melvin Jovel
Image caption Jovel listened to court proceedings in Spanish translation

A Honduran man has been given three life sentences for the execution-style murder of three New Jersey students in a schoolyard in 2007.

Prosecutors said Melvin Jovel, 21, lined them against a wall in and shot them one-by-one in the head.

Jovel pleaded guilty to three counts of murder and other charges. A fourth person was shot but survived.

Authorities in the city of Newark said he and five accomplices were taking part in a gang initiation ritual.

Violent gang ties

Accused accomplice Rodolfo Godinez was sentenced in July to three consecutive life terms. Four others are awaiting trial.

Authorities said Jovel and his alleged accomplices in the August 2007 attack had ties to MS-13, a violent Central American street gang. Prosecutors said the men did not know the students, who they set upon as they relaxed and listened to music in the school yard.

The three men killed were Iofemi Hightower and Dashon Harvey, both 20, and Terrance Aeriel, 18. The woman who survived testified she was sexually assaulted, slashed with a machete and shot in the head.