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Jurors in Hackensack today convicted “baby-faced killer” Fernando Carrero Jr. of deliberately gunning down an aspiring police officer in Lyndhurst during a dispute over his girlfriend.
Carrero sat motionless as guilty verdicts were pronounced against him of all eight counts against him, including murder, weapons possession and hindering apprehension.
They began deliberating yesterday morning, stopped a little after 4:30, then resumed today at 9 a.m. Just before 11:30, they signaled the judge that they’d reached a verdict.
Superior Court Judge Patrick Roma revoked Carrero’s bail and set a March 15 sentencing date.
“I’m very pleased with the results, and I thank the jury for the very careful attention they gave to the evidence we presented,” Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Danielle Grootenboer told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
She then went to be with the family of the victim, Jose Hall.
“It’s been very difficult,” Hall’s cousin, Tashaana, told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “I’m glad it’s over.”
Grootenboer told jurors during the trial that Carrero shot Hall in cold blood six years ago. Carrero’s attorney countered that Hall was killed during a struggle.
The murder conviction likely means a lifetime prison sentence for Carrero, who was 17 at the time of the killing.
A manslaughter conviction would have carried a term of from five to 10 years.
Carrero three years ago admitted killing Hall but revoked his aggravated manslaughter plea – which would have brought a maximum of 30 years – contending that his lawyer at the time misled him.
The trial rested in large part on the credibility of a single witness: Carrero’s girlfriend, Kerrilynn Lowenstein, who was there during the shooting at her parents’ Second Avenue house (Carrero is to be tried separately on charges of witness tampering for allegedly trying to orchestrate her testimony and that of another key witness in the case).
Lowenstein testified that she heard the first shot ring out in the family kitchen and ran in to find Hall in a fetal position on his back. Carrero was standing over him, she said.
Lowenstein said she tried to take the gun but that Carrero aimed it at Hall’s head and pulled the trigger.
Grootenboer told jurors that Carrero was jealous that his girlfriend’s ex-lover, Corey Hicks, was still living in her parents’ house with her.
On Nov. 6, 2007, he went there with a loaded .357 Magnum and ran into Hall, who was Hicks’ best friend.
An argument ensued and Hall, 21, was shot.
Shortly after midnight, police were called and the mortally wounded Hall was rushed to a nearby hospital. Hall — who had just applied to become a Newark police officer, following in his father’s footsteps – was taken off life support less than two days later.
Police said they found the handgun wrapped in a plastic bag at a friend’s home in Orange, where they said Carrero had fled.
Defense attorney Raymond R. Beam Jr. disputed Grootenboer’s version of Lowenstein’s statements to investigators.
“She was questioned from 2 to 7 a.m. on the day of the shooting, and she gave two different versions,” Beam said. “She was trying to distance herself from what happened.
“After several hours of mental arm-twisting, she finally told police after she heard the first shot and came back to the kitchen, there was a wrestling match going on, and during this confrontation Hall was shot the second time.”
Beam said the second shot was unintentional, and not the cold and deliberate act that Grootenboer described.
Carrero, who’s been in the Bergen County Jail since the Nov. 7, 2007 killing, originally was charged as a juvenile. But he copped to aggravated manslaughter and hindering charges offered by prosecutors in adult criminal court rather than stand trial for murder.
Last March, Carrero asked Superior Court Judge Edward Jerejian to revoke the plead, contending his lawyer at the time misled him about the likely sentence for “copping out.”
- YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A man who originally admitted killing an aspiring police officer in Lyndhurst has withdrawn his guilty plea and will be tried for murder in Hackensack next month. READ MORE….
He said he was pressured by his lawyer’s insistence that he’d go to prison for life if convicted at a trial and “just wanted to get out of here because of the mental turmoil I’ve been going through.”
Jerejian granted the request, setting the stage for the trial that led to today’s verdict.
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