A Monmouth County grand jury returned a nine-count indictment on Monday charging an area woman and man in connection with the shooting and subsequent murder of a Linden woman, Tyrita Julius, who had been missing for months, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni announced in a released statement on Tuesday.
Forty-one-year-old Tyrita Julius’ friend, Jennifer Sweeney, 32, of Tinton Falls, and Andre Harris, 32, of Long Branch, the resident of the home where Julius’ body was found on Joline Avenue, were charged in connection with Julius’ March 8 murder as well as an initial shooting of Julius in Linden on Nov. 24, the release said. If convicted, they face a 20-year prison sentence on each count, it added.
The nine-count indictment charges Sweeney and Harris with: two counts of first-degree attempted murder; one count of first-degree conspiracy (to commit the crime of murder); one count of second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon (firearm); and one count of possession of a weapon (firearm) for an unlawful purpose in connection with the shooting of Tyrita Julius and her daughter in Linden, the release said.
The indictment further charges Sweeney and Harris with: one count of first-degree murder; one count of third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose; one count of second-degree disturbing or desecrating human remains; and one count of fourth-degree tampering with physical evidence in connection with the death of Tyrita Julius in Long Branch, it added.
The case background …
On Nov. 24, 2015, at 7:16 p.m., the Linden Police Department (Union County) was called to 913 Middlesex Street in Linden in reference to the report of a shooting.
Upon arrival, police found 41-year-old Tyrita Julius shot several times in the driver’s seat of her vehicle, which was located a short distance from her residence. At the time of the incident, Tyrita’s teenaged daughter was seated in the front passenger seat of the vehicle and was also the victim of a non-fatal gunshot wound.
The investigation into the shooting was on-going when, on March 9, 2016, after not hearing from her daughter, Tyrita Julius’ mother, Queen Julius, called the Linden Police Department to report her daughter missing. Queen told authorities that Tyrita had been spending time with a female friend in Tinton Falls on March 8, but failed to return home later that evening.
Linden Police were advised that calls and text messages to Tyrita Julius’ phone went unanswered. Queen Julius also told police her daughter was reportedly dropped off at the Long Branch Train Station at approximately 7 p.m., by her friend Jennifer Sweeney, of Tinton Falls.
Law enforcement authorities from the Union County Prosecutor’s Office and Linden Police Department contacted the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office about the investigation on the afternoon of March 11. A joint investigation by detectives from those agencies, as well as the Long Branch, Tinton Falls and New Jersey Transit police departments, was conducted into the whereabouts of Tyrita Julius and the circumstances surrounding her disappearance.
Ultimately, as part of their investigative efforts, police searched a home located on Joline Avenue in Long Branch on August 16. During the search, detectives ultimately discovered the body of Tyrita R. Julius, 41, who had been missing since March 8.
The sentencing, if convicted …
If convicted of first-degree attempted murder or conspiracy, the two face the maximum sentence of 20 years on each count, which would be subject to the provisions of the “No Early Release Act (“NERA”). NERA requires that a defendant serve 85 percent of the sentence imposed before becoming eligible for parole.
If convicted of second-degree possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose and/or the unlawful possession of a firearm, they face a maximum of ten years in state prison, which is subject to a mandatory minimum of one-third of the sentence imposed or 3.5 years, whichever is greater, without parole.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Sweeney and Harris face a minimum sentence of 30 years in state prison during which time they would be ineligible for parole and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, subject to NERA.
The second-degree disturbing or desecrating human remains charge carries a maximum term of 10 years in State Prison. The third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose charge carries a maximum term of five years in state prison while the fourth-degree possession charge carries a maximum of 18 months in state prison.
The case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Christopher J. Decker, Director of the Office’s Major Crimes Bureau.
Sweeney is represented by Edward C. Bertucio, Esq. of Hobbie Corrigan & Bertucio in Eatontown and Harris is represented by Jeffrey Coghlan, Esq. of Freehold.
Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and state law.
— Edited press release from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office