Several members of the MS-13 street gang in Elizabeth were arrested yesterday and charged in the machete death of a city resident whose partially decomposed body was discovered last March, said Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow. The arrests came after several months of intense investigation by members of the Union County Homicide Task Force.
The victim, Marlon Castaneda DOB: 2/6/1988 of Franklin Street in Elizabeth, had been reported missing by relatives on October 10, 2010. He was last seen alive on October 9, 2010.
Castaneda’s partially decomposed body that was discovered on March 7, 2011 near Pine Street and Front Street in Elizabeth, said Romankow. An autopsy showed the victim died of multiple sharp force injuries. A follow up investigation showed the victim had been assaulted and struck with a machete by several MS-13 members after they believed the victim to be part of a rival gang. The victim was transported to the Port by the suspects and killed there, said Romankow.
Those charged with murder and weapon offences are: Jorge Morales, 29 of Elizabeth, Bryan Mego, 21, of Elizabeth, and a 17-year-old juvenile. Morales and Mego are being held at the Union County Jail on $1.5 million bail. The 17-year-old is being held at the juvenile detention center and his name is not available for release because of his age, however prosecutors have said they will seek to waive his case to adult court.
“This is a savage case of violence by gang members who have little to no regard for human life,” said Romankow. “Given the nature of the investigation this is one that could have remained unsolved had it not been for the dedicated, persistent and talented members of the Task Force who never gave up, followed every lead and got these machete wielding gang members off the street.”
Additionally, Jose B. Franco, 22, of Elizabeth was charged with being an accomplice in the murder, specifically being the driver of the car that transported the victim to the Port. He is being held on $400,000 bail.
Task Force Detective Steven Francisco served as lead investigator was assisted by Elizabeth Police Department Detectives who handled the initial missing person investigation.