Elizabeth Man Indicted in Alleged Robbery, Murder of 92-Year-Old Woman

An Elizabeth man has been indicted on charges he robbed and killed a 92-year-old woman in her home last year, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Thursday.

A Union County grand jury on Wednesday returned a four-count indictment charging Daniel Rios, 39, with burglary, robbery, murder, and felony murder in connection with the May 24, 2012 death of Annette Hempel.

Hempel, a nearly lifelong Elizabeth resident, lived alone on the first floor of her home on the 600 block of Jefferson Avenue, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Caroline Lawlor, who is prosecuting the case. On the day of Hempel’s death, Rios rang her doorbell, then pushed his way inside, Lawlor said.

After killing Hempel, Rios subsequently ransacked the home, making off with about $360 in loose change, which he proceeded to bring to a Coinstar machine at a nearby supermarket, Lawlor said.

Hempel’s body was discovered by her sister later that afternoon, and as a result of an intensive joint investigation launched by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office and the Elizabeth Police Department, Rios was arrested several days later.

“This marks a promising step toward achieving justice for what was clearly the most senseless of crimes,” acting Prosecutor Park said. “Ms. Hempel’s death was the result of a callous disregard for life in the pursuit of a small monetary gain.”