A Monmouth County teen who was charged with first-degree murder and related charges in connection with the February shooting death of a 10-year-old will be tried as an adult, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said on Thursday.
Jah-Del K. Birch, 17, of Embury Avenue in Neptune Township, is facing the adult charges of: first-degree murder, first-degree conspiracy to commit murder, second-degree aggravated assault, second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, and second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.
The state’s motion to waive Birch’s case to Superior Court was granted earlier this week in Monmouth County Family Court. A detention hearing in Monmouth County Superior Court before Judge Paul X. Escandon is scheduled for Tuesday, June 26, at 9 a.m.
Birch and Karon Council, 18, of Heck Avenue, are charged with killing Banos-Merino and injuring the boy’s mother Lilia Merino, 38, both of whom were not the intended targets of the Feb. 21, 2018 shooting incident in the 400 block of Ridge Avenue.
Birch was arrested without incident at Neptune Township High School where he was a member of the 2020 class. He has been incarcerated at the Middlesex County Youth Detention Center since his arrest in February.
Council was arrested in Florida two days after incident following an intense manhunt. He is also facing charges of: first-degree murder, first-degree conspiracy to commit murder, second-degree aggravated assault, second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, and second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.
The case background …
Asbury Park police responded to a 911 call at 10:40 p.m. on Feb. 21, reporting shots fired at a home in the 400 block of Ridge Avenue in the city. Police arrived to find the 10-year-old child and his 38-year-old mother had been struck with gunshot wounds. The child’s mother was treated and released for her injuries, however the child was pronounced dead at 11:18 p.m.
The joint investigation conducted by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and Asbury Park Police Department, with assistance from Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office and Neptune Township Police Department determined Council and Birch arrived at the home to target an occupant also present within the home but who was not injured during the incident.
If convicted of Murder, Birch and Council would each face a minimum sentence of 30 years in a New Jersey state prison without parole and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, subject to the provisions of the “No Early Release Act” requiring him to serve 85 percent of the sentence imposed before becoming eligible for release on parole. He would also be under parole supervision for five years following his release from state prison.
If convicted of any of the second-degree crimes, Birch and Council each faces a sentence of five to ten years in prison for each of the counts against them.
— Edited press release from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office