Harrison man arrested by HCPO Cold Case Unit, charged with 2007 murder

The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office’s Cold Case Unit has arrested a Harrison man believed to have been involved in a 2007 unsolved murder, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez announced.

On Monday night, Feb. 3, members of the Cold Case Unit arrested and charged Joel Esquijarrosa, 42, of Harrison, in connection with the Aug. 24, 2007 killing of Rafael Angel Aguero Espinoza in Jersey City.

Esquijarrosa was arrested without incident at the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office in Jersey City.

Esquijarrosa has been charged with first-degree murder; felony murder, first-degree robbery; third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose; and fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon.

The victim, Rafael Espinoza, was found dead on Friday, Aug. 24, 2007, inside the cabin of his tractor trailer, which was parked on Senate Place and Van Winkle Avenue in Jersey City. The cause of death was later determined to be multiple stab wounds and the manner of death to be homicide. The investigation revealed the homicide was committed during the commission of a robbery of the victim.

No arrests were made at the time.

On Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, the Harrison Police Department contacted the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office after Esquijarrosa was arrested in that jurisdiction on criminal mischief charges. Based on an investigation conducted by the Cold Case Unit, Esquijarrosa was charged in the 2007 murder.

Following his arrest, Esquijarrosa was transported to the Hudson County Correctional Facility in Kearny, pending his first appearance.

The Prosecutor’s Office has filed a motion for pretrial detention of the defendant.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.