Murder suspect in Puerto Rico, free man in Middle Township

MIDDLE TWP., N.J. - October 2, 2013

"I'm an innocent man. I just came over here to work and be with my family," 25-year-old Jonathan Rodriguez-Ocasio told Action News.

Rodriguez-Ocasio is wanted by authorities in Puerto Rico for his alleged involvement in the 2009 strangulation death of an 84-year-old woman who was killed during a robbery.

Her 99-year-old brother was beaten but survived.

Rodriguez-Ocasio says he had nothing to do with it and was with his wife the night of the murder.

"A lot of people do believe me, I have a lot of friends and since they've known me, they know what kind of man I am," Rodriguez-Ocasio said.

Rodriguez-Ocasio was picked up last month by Middle Township Police on a warrant out of Puerto Rico. He lives with his family at a trailer park in Rio Grande. But when police tried to extradite him, authorities in Puerto Rico refused, saying a witness against Rodriguez-Ocasio recanted.

The warrant was then changed so that Rodriguez-Ocasio will be arrested only if he sets foot in Puerto Rico.

Authorities there are still trying to build a case against him.

But with no alternative, Middle Township Police were forced to release their suspect which has upset local residents.

"To me it means Puerto Rico thinks he's dangerous enough and the crimes are serious enough that they would arrest him if he was in Puerto Rico, but they find it acceptable to leave him here," Mayor Daniel Lockwood said.

The Middle Township mayor says he's frustrated with Puerto Rico's judicial system that's left a man accused of murder there free on the streets here.

"If Mr. Ocasio thinks he's innocent, I would recommend he goes back to Puerto Rico and proves that," Lockwood said.

Rodriguez-Ocasio says he plans to visit Puerto Rico in the future, but for now is concerned about how the publicity surrounding his murder arrest and release is affecting his life.

"The way people look at me around here. I'm not that type of man, maybe because of my tatoos, maybe [the] teardrop," Rodriguez-Ocasio said.

The mayor says local police are making sure the community is safe and looking for any lawful way to get Rodriguez-Ocasio back in custody.

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