Two plead guilty in connection with Linden homicide

Both men charged in connection with a Linden homicide that took place a little less than two years ago have pleaded guilty in the past week, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Tuesday.

James Gilford, 22, of Elizabeth and Aziz Howard, 37, of Carteret each pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated manslaughter in connection with the death of 37-year-old James Garner.

At approximately 11:20 p.m. on Thursday, June 25, 2015, Linden Police Department patrol units responding to a shots-fired call arrived at the 300 block of East Price Street in Linden to find Garner suffering from gunshot wounds in a second-floor apartment unit. Garner was transported to a local hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

An investigation involving the Prosecutor’s Office’s Homicide Task Force, Linden Police Department, Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit, and Union County Police Department Ballistics Unit resulted in Gilford and Howard being identified as suspects in what was determined to have been a robbery gone wrong, and they were both arrested in July 2015, lodged in Union County Jail on $2 million bail apiece.

Sentencing for Howard and Gilford has been scheduled for June 30 and July 28, 2017, respectively, with both appearances to take place before state Superior Court Judge John Deitch. The State will recommend sentences of 20 and 24 years, respectively, for the two defendants, with 85 percent of both terms to be served before the possibility of parole.