WASHINGTON – A key suspect in the brutal killing of three college students in Newark was arrested early Saturday in Oxon Hill, Md., where authorities found the 24-year-old Nicaraguan man among a group drinking beer and getting tattooed in a filthy apartment furnished with little more than mattresses on the floor.
Twenty minutes later, police arrested his 16-year-old half-brother in the basement of a Woodbridge, Va., townhouse as the intense manhunt in the execution-style killings moved to the immigrant community, authorities said.
Authorities said the suspects – Rodolfo Godinez and the teenager, who is not being identified because he is a juvenile – were arrested on fugitive warrants for their involvement in the grisly Aug. 4 killings.
Godinez is believed to be a ringleader in the killings that shocked Newark and the rest of the nation for their incomprehensible brutality, authorities said.
Police have said the students were forced to kneel against a wall behind an elementary school before being shot in the head. Cell phones and jewelry were taken from them, and two were slashed in the face with either a knife or a machete.
Although authorities in New Jersey have said they have found no gang link to the killings, a witness to Godinez’s arrest said the man talked about being in MS-13, a notorious gang with roots in El Salvador that operates in a handful of metropolitan areas across the United States, including the Washington region.
Law enforcement sources in the Washington area said they believe there is a possibility of gang involvement in the killings.
The men are wanted in connection with the killings of Terrance Aeriel, 18, and Dashon Harvey and Iofemi Hightower, both 20. Aeriel’s sister, Natasha, 19, was shot in the head in the attack but survived. The Aeriels and Harvey were students at Delaware State University, and Hightower planned to enroll there this fall.