OFFICE OF THE
UNION COUNTY
PROSECUTOR

FOR EMERGENCIES, DIAL 911 Immediately


 Andrew K. RuOTOLO, JR. Justice CENTER
32 Rahway Avenue, elizabeth, NJ 07202

908-527-4500    ucpo@ucnj.org

William A. Daniel
Prosecutor

Web Site Administrator

A Union County grand jury has returned a three-count indictment against the man accused of murdering a stranger with a blunt object last summer, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel announced Friday.

Oliver I. Tzarax-Lopez, 21, is charged with first-degree murder and two related second-degree weapons offenses in connection with the death of 37-year-old Newark resident Nohora C. Agudelo.

At approximately 2:35 a.m. on Sunday, June 28, 2020, members of the Elizabeth Police Department responded to a report of suspicious activity in the area of East Broad Street and North Broad Street in the city’s downtown and found an adult female who had sustained severe head injuries, according to Union County Homicide Task Force Supervisor and Assistant Prosecutor Scott M. Peterson, who is prosecuting the case. The woman, later identified as Agudelo, was pronounced dead at the scene, and a subsequent autopsy revealed that her manner of death was homicide, with blunt-force trauma the cause.

An investigation led by the Homicide Task Force and assisted by the Elizabeth Police Department and the Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit resulted in Tzarax-Lopez being identified as a suspect in the case, and he was criminally charged on Wednesday, August 5, 2020, at which time his whereabouts remained unknown. He remained at large for more than three weeks, and on August 27, members of the Prosecutor’s Office, assisted by representatives of the New York City Police Department and U.S. Marshals Service, arrested him at a diner in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Manhattan.

Anyone with further information about Ms. Agudelo’s death is still urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Sgt. Christopher Scuorzo at 908-472-0492 or Sgt. Lamar Hartsfield at 908-451-1873.

Convictions on charges of this nature are commonly punishable by sentences of up to life in state prison.

These criminal charges are mere accusations. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

A fatal shooting that took place in Hillside last night is under active investigation, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel announced Friday.

The deceased victim has been identified as 31-year-old Steven Zimmerman of Hillside.

Members of the Hillside Police Department responded to the 1400 block of North Broad Street shortly before 10 p.m. Thursday and found Zimmerman at that location, having sustained serious injury, according to the preliminary investigation. He was subsequently pronounced dead.

The investigation into the shooting is being led by the Union County Homicide Task Force and assisted by members of the Hillside Police Department, Union County Police Department Ballistics Unit, and Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit.

Anyone with information about this matter is urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Sgt. Christopher Scuorzo at 908-472-0492,Detective Nora Berrio at 908-370-3016, or Hillside Police Department Detective Natalie Ogonowski at 732-540-2029.

Tips can also be submitted anonymously by phone at 908-654-TIPS (8477) or online at www.uctip.org.

The man charged with kidnapping his own son in an incident that resulted in a widely broadcasted Amber Alert late last week has now also been charged with killing the boy’s mother, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel and Rahway Police Department Director Jonathan Parham jointly announced Thursday. 

Tyler Rios, 27, of Highland Park is charged with first-degree kidnapping and first-degree murder in connection with the alleged abduction of 2-year-old Sebastian Rios and the death of 24-year-old Yasemin Uyar.

An investigation led by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office – and assisted by members of the FBI’s Newark Field Office and satellite offices, the New Jersey State Police, and the Rahway Police Department – led to Rios being identified as a suspect in the case after Sebastian Rios did not show up for daycare last Friday and Uyar did not arrive for scheduled work shifts, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Grady, who is prosecuting the case. A welfare check was conducted on Uyar’s home by members of the Rahway Police Department, but no one was found inside.

Shortly thereafter, the State Police issued an Amber Alert that was sent to privately owned cell phones, broadcast on electronic billboards along highways in New Jersey and beyond, and widely shared via social media.

Sebastian Rios was found unharmed in Monterey, Tennessee early last Saturday, when Tyler Rios was taken into custody without incident. Later in the day, investigators located Uyar’s body in a wooded area nearby, off of I-40.

An autopsy performed on Uyar revealed her manner of death to be homicide.

Tyler Rios remains in custody in Tennessee pending extradition back to New Jersey, after which a first appearance and detention hearing will be scheduled to take place in Union County Superior Court. 

Anyone with information about this matter is still urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Lt. Johnny Ho at 908-403-8271, Detective Richard Acosta at 908-347-0404, or Rahway Police Department Detective Anthony Tilton at 732-904-3704. 

Convictions on criminal charges of this nature are commonly punishable by terms of up to life in state prison.

These criminal charges are mere accusations. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.   

The mother of a young child who was the subject of an Amber Alert on Friday has been found dead, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo and Rahway Police Department Director Jonathan Parham jointly announced Sunday.

Tyler Rios, 27, of Highland Park is charged with first-degree kidnapping in connection with the alleged abduction of 2-year-old Sebastian Rios, and additional criminal charges are pending in connection with the death of 24-year-oldYasemin Uyar of Rahway.

An investigation led by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office assisted by members of the FBI’s Newark Field Office and satellite offices, under the leadership of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch, Jr.; the New Jersey State Police, under the leadership of Colonel Patrick J. Callahan; and the Rahway Police Department, under the leadership of Director Parhamled to Rios being identified as a suspect in the case after Sebastian Rios did not show up for daycare Friday and Uyar did not arrive for scheduled work shifts, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Grady, who is prosecuting the case. A welfare check was conducted on Uyar’s home by members of the Rahway Police Department Friday morning, but no one was found inside.

Shortly thereafter, the State Police issued an Amber Alert that was sent to privately owned cell phones, broadcast on electronic billboards along highways in New Jersey and beyond, and widely shared via social media.

Sebastian Rios was found unharmed in Monterey, Tennessee early on Saturday, when Tyler Rios was taken into custody without incident. Later in the day, investigators located Uyar’s body in a wooded area nearby, off of I-40.

Tyler Rios remains in custody in Tennessee pending extradition back to New Jersey, after which a first appearance and detention hearing will be scheduled to take place in Union County Superior Court.  

Anyone with information about this matter is still urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Lt. Johnny Ho at 908-403-8271 or Detective Richard Acosta at 908-347-0404.

Convictions on first-degree kidnapping charges are commonly punishable by terms of 15 to 30 years in state prison.

These criminal charges are mere accusations. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

A shooting in Plainfield that left one person dead and another hospitalized yesterday is under active investigation, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo and Plainfield Police Department Officerin-Charge David M. Guarino jointly announced Saturday.

The deceased victim has been identified as 24-year-old Jennifer Vorn of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

Members of the Plainfield Police Department responding to a call Friday afternoon found Vorn and a second adult shooting victim near the intersection of Rock Avenue and West Front Street, both having sustained serious injury, according to the preliminary investigation. Vorn was pronounced dead at the scene, while the second victim, a male, was taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick for emergency treatment.

The investigation into the shooting is being led by the Union County Homicide Task Force and assisted by members of the Plainfield Police Department, Union County Police Department Ballistics Unit, and Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit.

Anyone with information about this matter is urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Detective Ryan Kirsh at 908-347-1420 or Detective Sonia Rodriguez at 908-341-3380. Tips can also be submitted anonymously by phone at 908-654-TIPS (8477) or online at www.uctip.org.

The child who was the subject of a widely disseminated Amber Alert yesterday afternoon has been located safe – although his mother remains missing, and his father, who allegedly abducted both, is now in custody, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo and Rahway Police Department Director Jonathan Parham jointly announced Saturday morning.

Sebastian Rios, 2, was found earlier Saturday in Monterey, Tennessee, where 27-year-old Tyler Rios of Highland Park was arrested without incident. The boy’s mother, 24-year-old Yasemin Uyar of Rahway, has yet to be found.

An investigation led by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, and assisted by members of the FBIs Newark Field Office and satellite offices, under the leadership of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch, Jr.; the New Jersey State Police, under the leadership of Colonel Patrick J. Callahan; and the Rahway Police Department, under the leadership of Director Parham, led to Rios being identified as a suspect in the case after Sebastian Rios did not show up for daycare Friday and Uyar did not arrive for scheduled work shifts. A welfare check was conducted on Uyar’s home by members of the Rahway Police Department Friday morning, but no one was found inside.

Shortly thereafter, the State Police issued an Amber Alert that was sent to privately owned cell phones, broadcast on electronic billboards along highways in New Jersey and beyond, and widely shared via social media.

Tyler Rios remains in custody in Tennessee pending extradition back to New Jersey and the filing of criminal charges in Union County Superior Court.

While we are relieved that Sebastian Rios has been found safe and that Tyler Rios is in custody, we are still urging anyone with information about the whereabouts of Yasemin Uyar to come forward and tell us what they know, even anonymously, Prosecutor Ruotolo said.

Anyone with information about this matter is still urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Lt. Johnny Ho at 908-403-8271 or Detective Richard Acosta at 908-347-0404.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is assisting the Union County Prosecutor’s Office as it continues a yearlong effort to solicit help from the public in identifying a young woman whose body was found in Elizabeth last June.

Via its national website, social media feeds of individual field offices, and electronic billboards across the country, starting Friday and continuing into the weekend, the FBI is distributing a New Jersey State Police sketch of the woman in an effort to help local investigators learn more about the circumstances behind her death.

The woman’s dismembered body was found on the afternoon of Thursday, June 11, 2020 along railroad tracks off of the 300 block of Port Avenue in Elizabeth. The scene was secured and processed by members of the Union County Homicide Task Force, assisted by members of the New Jersey State Police Crime Scene Unit, Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit, and Elizabeth Police Department.

Forensic examination and an autopsy determined that the woman’s manner of death was a homicide. She was a Black and/or Hispanic female, 25-35 years of age, with a slender build, standing about 5-foot-6 and weighing 125-140 pounds, who had closely cropped hair, may have worn a wig or other head covering, and had double piercings in both ears. The composite sketch being re-released today includes a front and side facial profile.

An image of a vehicle of interest in the case is also being re-released along with the sketch. The vehicle appears to be a light-colored Toyota Highlander with brightly polished rims and a roof rack, model year 2000-2006.

Anyone with information about this matter is urged to contact the FBI at 973-792-3000 or the Prosecutor’s Office at 732-428-9412.

A fatal shooting that took place in Hillside early this morning is under investigation, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo announced Wednesday.  

The victim has been identified as 32-year-old Damon Hughes.

Members of the Hillside Police Department responding to a residence on the 100 block of Clark Street shortly before 1 a.m. on Wednesday found Hughes outside his home at that location, having sustained serious injury, according to the preliminary investigation. He was transported to University Hospital in Newark, where he was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

The investigation into the shooting is being led by the Union County Homicide Task Force and assisted by members of the Hillside Police Department, Union County Police Department Ballistics Unit, and Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit.

Anyone with information about this matter is urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Sgt. Lamar Hartsfield at 908-451-1873, Detective Sean Holcomb at 908-358-8377, or Hillside Police Department Detective Carlos Graca at 973-558-3335. Tips can also be submitted anonymously by phone at 908-654-TIPS (8477) or online at www.uctip.org.

The owner of hundreds of rental units scattered across 18 residential properties in Elizabeth who was arrested earlier this year and criminally charged with coercing more than a dozen of his tenants into sexual acts in exchange for financial relief has been rearrested and charged with similar crimes against a group of additional victims, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo and Elizabeth Police Department Chief Giacomo Sacca and Director Earl Graves jointly announced today.

Joseph Centanni, 74, of Mountainside was charged with five additional counts of second-degree sexual assault and seven additional counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual contact, bringing the total number of alleged victims for whom he has now been charged to 20 and the total number of criminal charges against him to 35. The alleged incidents in question took place at various times from 2013 to 2020, with male and female victims ranging in age from 22 to 61.

A long-term investigation initiated by a referral from the Elizabeth Police Department and led by the Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Victims Unit revealed that Centanni targeted tenants or prospective tenants who were homeless, about to be evicted, or otherwise struggling financially, according to Special Victims Unit Supervisor and Assistant Prosecutor Caroline Lawlor, who is prosecuting the case. Each of the victims reported feeling as though they had no choice but to concede to Centanni’s demands, citing dire personal circumstances such as trying to maintain housing for their young children. 

The defendant allegedly described the sex acts he solicited from his victims as a quid pro quo, agreeing to offer them rent reductions, a delay in eviction, or other forms of financial assistance in exchange. He also allegedly threatened tenants who hesitated or refused his advances with eviction or other retaliatory measures. 

“I commend the tireless commitment of the investigators and prosecutors as they continue pursuing justice for every victim impacted by the alleged acts of the defendant,” said Ruotolo.

Centanni was taken into custody without incident Wednesday morning and will be lodged in the Essex County Jail pending a first appearance scheduled to take place in Union County Superior Court. He had been free on pretrial release with conditions following his initial arrest.

The ongoing investigation into Centanni’s activities has been led by Special Victims Unit Detective Joanne Son, and assisted by Elizabeth Police Department Detective Louis DeMondo and Special Agent Khela Vazquez of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), under the supervision of HUD Special Agent in Charge Christina Scaringi. Members of the Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit, under the leadership of Sheriff Peter Corvelli, previously assisted with the execution of a search warrant at Centanni’s office.

There is a separate, ongoing Fair Housing Act lawsuit against Centanni brought by the United States Department of Justice. Individuals can report sexual harassment and other forms of housing discrimination by contacting the U.S. Attorney’s Office Civil Rights Hotline at (855) 281-3339, or by emailing the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov.

To read more about the federal civil suit, go online to justice.gov/usao-nj/pr/department-justice-files-sexual-harassment-lawsuit-against-owner-rental-properties.

Any additional victims of Centanni who have yet to come forward and anyone with information about Centanni’s activities are urged to contact Detective Son of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office at 908-477-1698.

Convictions on second-degree crimes are commonly punishable by terms of 5 to 10 years in state prison.

These criminal charges are mere accusations. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

A Union County jury returned a guilty verdict Tuesday afternoon against a Summit man charged with armed robbery for threatening a gas station attendant at knifepoint three years ago, acting Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo and Summit Police Chief Andrew Bartolotti jointly announced.

The jury deliberated for less than a day before convicting 47-year-old Patrick Vermilyea of first-degree armed robbery, third-degree possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose, and fourth-degree theft of movable property. The verdict came after three days of trial testimony before Union County Superior Court Judge Lisa Miralles Walsh and was tried by Assistant Prosecutors Estrella Lopez and Frank L. Valdinoto. 

At trial, it was revealed that in the early morning hours of June 5, 2018, Vermilyea, armed with a knife, threatened an employee before entering the attendant’s booth of the Shell gas station on River Road in Summit. Once inside the booth, Vermilyea stole money and cigarettes before fleeing the scene. Vermilyea was later stopped in his vehicle by members of the Millburn Police Department on Interstate 78 and taken into custody.

“This guilty verdict is the culmination of dedicated, hard work by prosecutors and investigators to successfully bring Union County’s first criminal case to trial following the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ruotolo.

The investigation was led by the Summit Police Department and assisted by members of the Millburn Police Department.

Sentencing in this case is scheduled to take place on September 23, when, due to the defendant’s previous armed robbery convictions, he faces a term of life in prison without the possibility of parole.