When Kearny police, having travelled to Newark on the hunt, apprehended a suspect in two town muggings, he reportedly was easy to identify. Police said he was wearing one victim’s stolen rosary beads around his neck.
That suspect, Julio Rodriguez, 25, of Newark, was arrested in the early morning hours of Dec. 21 by Capt. Scott Macfie and Det. Michael Gonzalez who had tracked him to that city. Rodriguez was remanded to the Hudson County Jail. An accomplice is still being sought.
The saga began shortly after 1 a.m. on the 21st, when the KPD received “back-toback calls” about two armed robberies in the area of Davis Ave. and Hoyt St., Chief John Dowie said. In both instances, the victims were confronted by two individuals in a minivan, the chief noted.
Dowie said the first crime was thwarted when the intended victim, a 25-year-old Kearny man, fought back, despite being threatened with a handgun. Luckily, the weapon turned out to be fake, and the assailants fled in the van.
The next target was a 29-year-old Kearny woman, who was walking her dog. The van occupants asked her for directions to Newark, and when she approached the vehicle to help, they grabbed her purse. Police said that, as she tried to hold onto the handbag, the van dragged her along the street for a short distance and she sustained cuts and scrapes and a fractured finger.
Patrol officers who responded to the scene and interviewed the victims and witnesses said they concurred on the vehicle’s description, a white Chevy minivan, and a partial plate ID: the letters XAU.
At that point, the Detective Bureau took over the investigation and, within the hour, Macfie and Gonzalez were headed to Newark. They spotted the van at a service station at Park Ave. and Sixth St. and then followed it east on Park, where they pulled it over and found it operated by Rodriguez, police said. The second suspect was not in it.
What was in it, in plain view, police said, were items stolen from the female victim — including those rosary beads around Rodriguez’ neck. He was arrested and brought back to Kearny.
Dowie said the vehicle turned out to have been stolen a day earlier in Newark. In addition to the woman’s property, a search of the van at KPD headquarters reportedly uncovered 12 vials of suspected cocaine and a hypodermic needle.
Rodriguez was charged with robbery, conspiracy, endangering an injured victim, possession of cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Dowie said Det. Frank West processed the van “and retrieved evidence that will likely result in the identification and apprehension of the second person.”