ELIZABETH – This morning, a Union County jury found Edariel “Riddicc” Melendez guilty on two counts of murder, aggravated assault and weapons offences for two separate 2007 homicides that occurred in Elizabeth, according to Union County Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow.
Melendez, 21, of Elizabeth was charged with the Nov. 12, 2007 shooting of 13-year-old Elijah Henderson and the Nov. 14, 2007 shooting of 54-year-old Celso Pedra.
According to the investigation, Melendez participated in the shooting of Henderson as the teenager rode his bike on the 200 block of Fulton Street in the early morning hours of Nov. 12, 2007 with friends. Another teen was injured in the shooting and a third escaped without injury.
Melendez, a member of the Crips street gang, was also accused of participating in the Nov. 14 shooting death of Celso Pedra, 54, of Fulton Street in Elizabeth.
“We believe that in both cases, the deaths were a result of mistaken identity.” Romankow said. “The defendant was seeking retaliation against rival gang members for murder of Rahshad Thomas.”
Thomas, a member of the Crips known as “Twin,” was killed at Ella’s Lounge in Elizabeth on Nov. 11, 2007.
“Innocent people died because of Melendez,” said Romankow. “Now, he’ll be going to a place where he won’t be a danger to the public anymore.”
Melendez was arrested in 2008, when county sheriff’s officers serving an eviction notice at an Elizabeth apartment found a .40 caliber handgun that had been left behind, according to Assistant Prosecutor Bruce Holmes who prosecuted the case.
The investigation determined that the weapon was the same one used in both shootings. After conducting interviews, homicide detectives from the Union County Prosecutor’s Office were able to identify Melendez as a suspect, said Holmes.
Romankow commended Elizabeth Detectives Thomas Dubeau, Paul Pasternak and Louchan Holmes and Union County Prosecutor’s Office Detectives Michael Manochio and Patricia Gusmano for their roles in the investigation.
Melendez will be sentenced before Union County Superior Court Judge Joseph P. Perfilio on Aug. 27. He faces up to life in prison.
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