Union Township man sentenced to 36 years for knife, hatchet attack

A Union Township man who brutally attacked three people with a hatchet and knife in a backyard early one morning in 2011 has been sentenced to 36 years in state prison for the crime, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Friday.

Morgan Mesz, 30, earlier this year had been convicted of two counts of first-degree attempted murder, third-degree aggravated assault, and related weapons offenses after several hours of jury deliberation spread over two days following a nearly month-long trial before state Superior Court Judge Stuart Peim.

It was a little before 6 a.m. on Friday, January 7, 2011 when two of the victims, then 50- and 53-year-old female residents of a home on Longview Road in Union Township, noticed that items that had been stored in their shed had been strewn across their backyard, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Albert Cernadas, Jr., who prosecuted the case.

When they went to investigate, a man later identified as Mesz emerged from the shed and used the hatchet and knife to strike and stab both women several times, causing injuries Peim repeatedly described in court Friday as “unbelievably horrendous.”

“It’s a miracle these ladies are still alive,” Peim said, paraphrasing the trauma physician who treated the pair and testified at trial.  

As the attack on the women was in progress, a neighbor, then-33-year-old Hernan Agudelo, heard what was going on, retrieved a small souvenir baseball bat from his vehicle, and used it to subdue Mesz at the cost of several non-life threatening stab wounds of his own., Cernadas said. Shortly thereafter, arriving police arrested Mesz at the scene.

The female victims were rushed to University Hospital in Newark for lifesaving emergency medical treatment and surgery. Agudelo and both of the women later testified at trial.

“These additional attacks are what destroyed their ability to live normal lives,” Cernadas said in court Friday, pointing to the long-term effects of the injuries suffered by both women in arguing for a maximum term and noting that their ability to enjoy everyday activities such as bowling and gardening has been impacted.

Peim sentenced Mesz to consecutive 16-year sentences for the attempted murder charges, with at least 85 percent of both terms to be served prior to the possibility of parole, plus a four-year term on the aggravated assault charge.