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Elizabeth NJ Stabbing Results in Murder Conviction

Homicide Defense Lawyers in Union County

Rosendo Salomon Gomez-Serpa, an undocumented immigrant once deported to Guatemala, was residing in Elizabeth.  In the early morning hours of April 9, 2016, Gomez-Serpa, 25, got into an argument with Mario Ortiz, 30, in the parking lot of the Imperial Latino Lounge in Elizabeth.  During the argument, Gomez-Serpa pulled out a knife and stabbed Ortiz five times, which included a fatal blow to the chest. 

Virtually all of the fight and murder was caught on surveillance camera.  In addition, Ortiz’s blood was found on a hat Gomez-Serpas was wearing at the time of his arrest about 10 hours after the homicide.  The video footage and the hat were introduced as evidence in Gomez-Serpas’ three week murder trial.  At the end of the matter, Gomez-Serpas was found guilty of murder in the first-degree and of two weapons offenses.

This past week, a sentencing hearing was held for Gomez-Serpas.  He was sentenced to 52 years in prison, 85% (approximately 49 years) of which he must serve before he is eligible for parole. 

First-Degree Murder in Union County

The crime of murder is outlined at N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3 of the New Jersey Criminal Code.  This law states that someone commits a criminal homicide, commonly referred to as murder, if they:

The actor purposely causes death or serious bodily injury resulting in death; or

The actor knowingly causes death or serious bodily injury resulting in death[.]

The key element of the murder statute is the state-of-mind element.  The perpetrator must either intend to kill (“purposeful”) or know that his behavior will result in death (“knowing”). 

In the Gomez-Serpa case, the Union County Prosecutor had the burden to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Gomez-Serpa stabbed the victim to death, and did so either purposefully or knowingly.  Based on the jury verdict, it appears that the prosecutor was successful in establishing those proofs. 

Penalties for Murder  

Murder is a first-degree crime, and a court must sentence a person convicted of murder to a minimum of 30 years in prison, but may sentence anywhere between 30 years and life imprisonment.  In either case, the person must serve 30 years before being eligible for parole. 

Turning back to the Gomez-Serpas case, it appears that the judge determined that the appropriate sentence was somewhere between 30 years and life in prison, which is a sentence that also took into account Gomez-Serpas’ convictions for the two weapons offenses. 

While news reports do not specifically mention any defense Gomez-Serpas presented, it is likely that he may have attempted to downgrade the charges against him to manslaughter. 

Manslaughter is a lesser form of criminal homicide, whereby a defendant is afforded a lighter sentence, possibly 10 to 30 years, when he commits murder in the heat of passion.  Given that the stabbing was the result of an altercation, it is possible that Gomez-Serpas could have claimed he was not entirely in his right mind (i.e., that he was taken by the heat of passion) at the time of the stabbing.  

Elizabeth Criminal Homicide Attorneys

If you or someone you know are facing serious criminal charges, we ask that you consider contacting The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall to handle the defense.  Representing clients with success for decades, the lawyers at our firm have the skill, passion, and reputation in the courts to professionally and aggressively mount a strong, winning defense on your behalf.  If you have been charged with a crime, even something as serious as murder, we have the expertise to represent you.  Call the Union NJ Criminal Defense Attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall today at 908-272-1700.  The first consultation is free.