By Karen Zautyk
$10 million. Cash only. That is the amount of bail that has been set for murder suspect Cruz Martinez Jr., arrested Saturday in Pennsylvania in connection with the shooting death of a 16-year-old girl in her Kearny home last week.
The victim, Alishia Colon, a student at Kearny High School, was found dead in her second-floor bedroom at 253 Belgrove Drive at approximately 6:20 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17.
According to a statement by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office (HCPO), Kearny police, responding to reports of a shooting, discovered the victim with a gunshot wound to the head. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
On Saturday, following what Kearny Police Chief John Dowie called “incredible detective work,” Martinez, 41, of Hazleton, Pa., was nabbed by authorities in that state.
The HCPO said the suspect was initially arrested on an unrelated open warrant from Pennsylvania. Later that day, he was charged by Hudson County with murder, unlawful possession of a firearm, and possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose.
As of press time, there was no information on a possible motive in the murder or of Martinez’ connection to the Colon family.
The suspect was being held at Luzerne County Correctional Facility pending extradition to New Jersey.
On Thursday, several hours before the slaying, Kearny police were called to the area of 250 Belgrove Drive on a report of a street fight involving some of the victim’s relatives, the HCPO noted. “The victim, however, was not involved in that dispute,” the office said.
There was one arrest in connection with the fight, that of Edwin Mendez Jr. . 37, of Belleville, charged with unlawful possession of a weapon, a machete, authorities reported.
Homicide detectives are still investigating any possible link between the disturbance and the murder, but they have given no reason for what caused that scuffle.
By Sunday evening, a shrine had appeared in front of Alishia’s home. Lights from the TV news vans lining Belgrove Drive illuminated the teddy bears and rosaries and balloons and roses and candles and personal notes of grief from Colon’s friends.
People stopped by to add another candle or a framed holy picture, one with a handwritten inscription: “You will be forever missed by friends and family.” Others just stood silently for a few moments with bowed heads.
We spoke briefly with one woman, the mother of one of the victim’s high school friends, who expressed her deep sorrow, but added that Alishia “is happy now.”
Referring to the arrest, she said, “I know she’s happy because they have made justice for her.”
Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos issued a statement Sunday, noting, “All available investigatory resources were used to identify and locate” the individual allegedly responsible “for this tragic death.”
“Since discovery of the crime on Thursday, the Kearny Police Department under Chief John Dowie has worked around the clock to bring this individual to justice.”
Santos added: “The Kearny Town Council and I express our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Alishia Colon. We also reassure residents that safety is paramount and all available resources will be used by the Kearny Police Department to apprehend any individual who commits a crime in the Town of Kearny.”
Dowie told The Observer that there has been a “good cooperative investigation” between his detectives and those of the HCPO.
“There are a lot of players here,” Dowie said regarding the crime. The detectives, he noted, “turned street names and nicknames into real names and were able to quickly determine who they were dealing with.”
The investigation is far from over. The prosecutor’s homicide detectives, along with Kearny police, “are actively continuing the investigation for other possible actors,” the HCPO said.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the HCPO Homicide Unit at (201) 915- 1345 or firstname.lastname@example.org. All communications will be kept confidential.