Elizabeth man admits to fatally shooting neighbor during Halloween robbery

Robert Rouse (victim of crime)
Robert Rouse (victim of crime)

An Elizabeth man has admitted to fatally shooting his neighbor during the course of a robbery on Halloween night in 2016, acting Union County Prosecutor Michael A. Monahan announced Thursday.  

Jimmy Kearney, 20, pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to a single count of first-degree felony murder before state Superior Court Judge William Daniel for his role in the death of 61-year-old Robert Rouse.  

Elizabeth Police Department patrol units responded to the 400 block of Walnut Street in Elizabeth shortly before 6 a.m. on Monday, October 31, 2016 to find the body of Rouse, who was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Armando Suarez, who prosecuted the case.

An intensive joint investigation by the Union County Homicide Task Force, Union County Prosecutor’s Office High Tech Unit, Elizabeth Police Department, Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit, and Union County Police Department Ballistics Unit quickly resulted in Kearney being identified as a suspect, and he was arrested without incident hours later, lodged in Union County Jail on $750,000 bail, Suarez said. Kearney was then indicted in March 2017.

The investigation revealed that after initially following and assaulting Rouse, Kearney ran to his home less than a block away, retrieved a handgun, returned to where the victim was laying prone in the street, and shot him in the neck, fatally injuring him before going through his pockets. Following the execution of a search warrant at Kearney’s home, the victim’s backpack and the murder weapon, a .45-caliber handgun, were recovered from the defendant’s bedroom, and a subsequent search of a storm drain near the scene of the crime turned up the victim’s wallet, identification cards, credit cards, and train and bus tickets.  

Kearney also was wearing sneakers found to have the victim’s DNA on them at the time of his arrest.

Sentencing in the case has been scheduled for Friday, May 10 before Judge Daniel, at which time the State will request a term of 30 years in state prison, with the full term to be served before the possibility of parole.