New Jersey father charged with murder after 9-year-old son's body found in burning car

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Friday, March 29, 2024
Child found dead in burning car after domestic dispute in Sayreville
Darla Miles has the latest in Sayreville on the car fire.

SAYREVILLE, New Jersey -- A man has been charged with murder in connection with the death of his 9-year-old son, who was found dead in a burning car in Sayreville on Friday.

Police responded to a call for a domestic dispute at 10:45 p.m. where a woman told officers that Manuel Rivera, 43, left the house with their 9-year-old son.

Authorities also received a call for a fire near Sayreville War Memorial High School. When they got to the scene at Washington Road, they found Rivera alive but with burns to his body and a self-inflicted wound.

He was next to a vehicle that was doused with gasoline and on fire with the deceased child inside.

Rivera was taken to the hospital where he is being treated for injuries.

He has been charged with first-degree murder, second-degree aggravated arson, second-degree endangering the welfare of a child and second-degree desecration of human remains.

Prosecutors have not released the child's identity, but he was a third-grader at the Wilson School. Counselors and therapists will be on hand Monday to offer counseling or emotional support.

Rivera is believed to be an employee at Sayreville Public Schools.

There was an enormous sense of grief and sadness palpable through the neighborhood on Friday.

"Pretty sad, when I was explaining it to my son today, I had to keep it together," neighbor Leo DaSilva said. "I would never imagine those were my neighbors."

Mayor Kennedy O'Brien released a statement on behalf of the community:

"On this Good Friday, Sayreville is waking up to learn of a horrific incident that occurred overnight that shakes our community to its core: the loss of a nine-year-old child, allegedly at the hands of a parent. Any time such senseless violence involves one of our children, it gravely affects all of Sayreville," O'Brien said. "On behalf of a shocked and saddened community, I want to say that Sayreville stands in solidarity with the child and the family and friends who are enduring this inconceivable ordeal."

O'Brien's statement went on to assure that the community is safe and there will be a detailed investigation.

Anyone with information or surveillance footage of the area is asked to call Detective Michael Pirigyi of the Sayreville Police Department at 732-727-4444 or Detective Jose Rosario of the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office at 732-745-3289.