Elizabeth man admits to 2012 murder of 92-year-old woman

An Elizabeth man has admitted to killing a 92-year-old woman in her home during the course of a robbery in 2012, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced.

Daniel Rios, 40, appeared before state Superior Court Judge Scott J. Moynihan on Monday, when he pleaded guilty to the felony murder 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 afternoon of May 24, 2012, Rios rang the doorbell of Hempel’s home, then pushed his way inside, Lawlor said.

When Hempel started screaming, Rios placed his hand over her mouth and brought her to the ground in an effort to silence her, leading to her death by asphyxiation. He then stole approximately $360 in change from Hempel’s home before fleeing.

Hempel’s body was discovered by a family member later that afternoon, and an intensive joint investigation involving the Union County Homicide Task Force and the Elizabeth Police Department led to the identification of Rios as a suspect. He was arrested and charged several days after Hempel was found dead, and last September a Union County grand jury returned a four-count indictment charging Rios with burglary, robbery, murder, and felony murder.

Sentencing in the case has been scheduled for July 11, when Rios is expected to receive 30 years in state prison with no provision for parole until the full completion of that term.