Prosecutor: Area Man Pleads Guilty to 2014 Murder of Pregnant Girlfriend

An area man pleaded guilty Friday to first-degree aggravated manslaughter in the 2014 strangulation death of his pregnant girlfriend and faces up to 28 years in prison, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni announced in a released statement.

Sender Neftali Villatoro-Reyes, 27, of Freehold Borough entered his guilty plea before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Richard W. English.

The case background … 

On Friday, May 16, 2014, at 2:15 a.m., Villatoro-Reyes called 911 and reported that he killed his 30-year-old girlfriend, Lucenay Fermin Gallegos, at their 51 Hudson Street Apt. #3 home in Freehold Borough.

Police responded to the scene where they found Fermin Gallegos dead on the couch in their apartment. She was pronounced at 3:27 a.m. by Dr. Spiegel at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. An autopsy was conducted the same day by Middlesex County Medical Examiner Diane Karluk.

The cause of death was deemed asphyxia due to manual strangulation. The victim was approximately five months pregnant at the time of her death.

The Freehold Borough Police Department and Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit conducted a joint investigation.

Villatoro-Reyes was arrested and charged with murder the same day. The defendant was originally indicted by a grand jury on March 23, 2015, for one count of murder.

At his plea before Judge English, Villatoro-Reyes admitted that he during an argument with the victim, the defendant placed his hands around her throat, strangling her to death.

Pursuant to the plea agreement, the state is recommending a sentence of 28 years in a state prison. Subject to the No Early Release Act, Villatoro-Reyes must serve 85 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole; in addition, he will be under parole supervision for five years once released.

Villatoro-Reyes is scheduled for sentencing on April 21, 2017 before Judge English.

Villatoro-Reyes is being held in the Monmouth County Correctional Institution on $1 million bail with no 10 percent option.

Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutors Jennifer Lipp and Julia Alonso handled the case.

Villatoro-Reyes is represented by Allison Friedman, Esq., of Freehold.

— Edited press release from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office

Focus: Bringing Donovan’s Reef Back

It’s been more than five years since Superstorm Sandy tossed and flattened the iconic Donovan’s Reef in Sea Bright.

In the aftermath of the storm in which the Atlantic Ocean met the Shrewsbury River over the small peninsula town, all that was left of Donovan’s was a tossed building, a shell of the main bar, restaurant equipment, torn up pavement and wood — lots of wood — in scattered piles. What remained of its sign were the letters D O … found on the ground by Mayor Dina Long.

The letters became symbolic of the can-do attitude Sea Bright residents and business owners embodied in the tough months, even years, of rebuilding ahead.

There was a year without Donovan’s. Then there were a few years of an open Tiki bar on the beach.

Now Donovan’s is coming back — bigger, higher and stronger — for its first summer as a rebuilt area legend.

Take a look at the progress so far …

— Elaine Van Develde

Focus: Black & White Rumson Riverfront Nightfall

Then came the thaw …

After a warmer winter’s day, as nightfall hit along the Navesink riverbanks in Rumson, the sand slurped up the snow, the icy river waters dissolved, and the ducks glided across their glassy path.

Reflections in shades of grey gripped the low tide. Serenity seeped into the shoreline.

See for yourself …

— Elaine Van Develde



Retro Fair Haven Fire Department Installation Dinners

Photos by Kathy Robbins … Slideshow by Elaine Van Develde

The Fair Haven Fire Department recently had its Installation Dinner. Every year, traditionally on the Saturday after the New Year, new line officers are officially installed and honored and outgoing officers and members are honored in a thank you dinner dance — a festive gathering for good times and the making of milestone moments.

Our Retro Pic of the Day today has turned into several retro pics in a slide show honoring the Fair Haven Fire Department’s Installation Dinners of the past.

A special thank you to Kathy Robbins, who provided all the photos!

Just click the center arrow and then the bottom right icon to enlarge. Enjoy! And congrats and thank you to all the members of the Fair Haven Fire Department’s Fire Company, First Aid Squad, Fire Police and Ladies’ Auxiliary.  RIP to those in this slideshow who have passed.

Focus: Sea Bright Fire & Ice Sunrise

Sea Bright sunrise on Jan 10, 2016
Photo/Patrick Hughes

This morning’s sunrise over Sea Bright was a scene of fiery skies and icy waters.

Former longtime Rumsonite Patrick Hughes captured the scene, recording a 15-degree temperature and citing some “intrepid ducks” on the frigid Shrewsbury River.

Though, according to the National Weather Service, the cold snap is about to break today with temperatures reaching a high of 41 degrees.

Thanks for the view, Patrick!

Icy Cold R-FH Area Memories

The 1973 ice storm in Fair Haven. Photo/Elaine Van Develde (age 12)
The 1973 ice storm in Fair Haven.
Photo/Elaine Van Develde (age 12)

Our Retro Pic of the Day is a sort of “gratitude journal” one. It’s a reminder that, though it is pretty cold outside, it could be worse.

This, albeit blurry, instamatic camera shot from December of 1973 takes us back to what we referred to as The Big Ice Storm of ’73.

Limbs of trees, coated in very pretty, but dangerous, icicles were snapping all over the place. So were electrical lines. So were adults’ nerves.

As kids, however, we thought it was pretty cool. We were unfazed. In reality, it was pretty treacherous.


Focus: RFH Alum Reunited

The snow came on Saturday and some diehard traditionalists and Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH) alumni and friends went … to the annual New Year gathering at the Grady home.

Despite the weather, a few trudged not quite uphill, but at least from their cars down the street, in the snow, to what has become the annual gala at which all good RFHers congregate.

And though there were quite a bit fewer RFH alum partygoers this year, no enthusiasm was buried. Get the drift?

Thanks to Mike and Kathleen Grady for hosting this annual mini RFH reunion for each new year! 

Take a look …

Recognize of these 1970s and early 80s RFHers?

— Elaine Van Develde

Retro Rumson Firemen

Rumson Fire Department line officers Joseph Brennan Slocum (chief), Bill Murphy and Kenneth Patrick Marass circa 1965. Photo/courtesy of Jo Ann Slocum Mazzucca
Rumson Fire Department line officers Joseph Brennan Slocum (chief), Bill Murphy and Kenneth Patrick Marass circa 1965.
Photo/courtesy of Jo Ann Slocum Mazzucca

The following Retro Pic of the Day was originally published on Jan. 4 2016. In honor of the Rumson Fire Department reorganization on Jan. 1 of this year, we are offering a look back at the reorg of 1965:

As tradition goes in the Rumson-Fair Haven area, Sunday was the day of swearing line officers in to the respective fire companies.

So, in honor of the time-honored tradition, the Retro Pic of the Day offers a glimpse back to 1965 and Rumson’s top line officers.

Continue reading Retro Rumson Firemen