Gang Members Charged In Elizabeth Man’s Killing

ELIZABETH — Several members of the MS-13 street gang in Elizabeth were arrested yesterday and charged in the death of a city resident whose partially decomposed body was discovered last March, Union County Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow announced. The arrests came after several months of intense investigation by members of the Union County Homicide Task Force.

The victim, Marlon Castaneda of Franklin Street in Elizabeth, had been reported missing by relatives on Oct. 10, 2010. He was last seen alive the day before.

Castaneda’s partially decomposed body that was discovered on March 7 near Pine Street and Front Street in Elizabeth, said Romankow. An autopsy showed the victim died of multiple sharp force injuries. According to the prosecutor’s office, a follow up investigation showed that the victim had been assaulted and struck with a machete by several MS-13 members after they believed him to be part of a rival gang. Castaneda was transported to the Port by the suspects and killed there, Romankow said.

The prosecutor’s office announced that Jorge Morales, 29, and Bryan Mego, 21, both of Elizabeth, as well as a 17-year-old juvenile, have been charged with murder and weapon offences. Morales and Mego are being held at the Union County Jail on $1.5 million bail. The 17-year-old is being held at the juvenile detention center. His name was not released because of his age, however prosecutors have said they will seek to waive his case to adult court.

“This is a savage case of violence by gang members who have little to no regard for human life,” said Romankow. “Given the nature of the investigation this is one that could have remained unsolved had it not been for the dedicated, persistent and talented members of the Task Force who never gave up, followed every lead and got these machete wielding gang members off the street.”

Additionally, Jose B. Franco, 22, of Elizabeth was charged with being an accomplice in the murder, specifically being the driver of the car that transported the victim to the Port. He is being held on $400,000 bail.

Task Force Detective Steven Francisco served as lead investigator; he was assisted by Elizabeth Police Department detectives who handled the initial missing person investigation.

These criminal charges are mere accusations. As with all criminal cases, the defendants are innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

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