Police pool efforts to catch 3 suspects

Armed robberies occurred in Ocean, Monmouth & Middlesex


JACKSON — A three-county investigation led to the arrest of three individuals on July 6 and July 30 and charges being lodged against them in a series of armed robberies.

Police arrested Christopher Brown, 21, of Jackson, Benjamin Newton, 20, of the Monmouth Junction section of South Brunswick, and Cardell Atkins, 20, of Lakewood.

Jackson Police Department Uniform Service Commander Capt. David Newman said in a press release that Jackson detectives Michael Kelly and Mitch Cowit recently completed a joint investigation into an armed robbery spree in four towns, covering three counties, South Brunswick (Middlesex County), Manalapan and Howell (Monmouth County) and Jackson (Ocean County).”

Working with Kelly and Cowit were Detective Michael Ratta of the Manalapan Police Department and Detective Ronald Seaman of the South Brunswick Police Department.

Assisting in the investigation and subsequent arrests of the suspects were Detective Leonard Maltese and Police Officer Kevin Schmidt of the Manalapan Police Department.

South Brunswick Police Chief Raymond J. Hayducka said two armed robberies occurred in that municipality on May 2. One of the robberies took place at a Citgo gas station on Route 130 and the second robbery took place at a Stop Buy food store on Ridge Road.

“In both cases a handgun was displayed by the actors,” said South Brunswick assistant public information officer Sgt. Hugh E. McNeil Jr. in a press release.

On May 2 at approximately 8 p.m., the trio allegedly moved into Howell. A clerk who was working at the Freewood Acres food mart was robbed at gunpoint and an undetermined amount of cash was taken before the suspects fled the store, according to Howell police Capt. Donna Craton.

Atkins, Brown and Newton were charged in connection with that crime. Howell Detective Robert Otenz was the investigating officer.

A series of investigations that lasted for several months linked the robberies to a group of suspects using similar methods during the crimes, and having similar descriptions of the suspects and their vehicle.

Police said the suspects were also identified through examination of security video and witness statements.

Kelly also uncovered additional information that linked the suspects to two Jackson robberies, Newman said.

Manalapan Police Lt. Lloyd Drucker described, in a press release, a robbery that oc- curred at a CVS Pharmacy on Route 33.

He said two suspects entered the CVS on May 4 at 9:30 p.m. The pair walked around the store for about 15 minutes and then approached the cash register carrying items for purchase. When the cashier accepted money for the purchase, both men jumped over the counter, pointed a gun at employees and demanded cash from the cash registers.

Police said the suspects obtained $2,400 in cash and took items valued at $100 from the pharmacy before fleeing the scene.

On May 16 in Jackson, employees at the Krauszer’s food store in the Annilop Plaza, Brewers Bridge Road, reported an armed robbery that had occurred on May 2. Due to ethnic and language issues, the reporting of the robbery was delayed until the manager of the store became aware of what occurred, Newman said.

The victim, a clerk who was working alone at the time of the robbery, reported that the suspect, described as a black male, entered the store at about 7:30 p.m., police said. As the male entered, he spoke with the clerk and then drew what appeared to be a black semi-automatic handgun and pointed it at the clerk.

The suspect then went around the counter and tried to grab the phone from the clerk, who was calling the police. The robber then backed away, put the gun back in his pants pocket and left the store, according to police.

On May 20 at 1:28 p.m., employees of a 7-Eleven convenience store on West County Line Road reported an armed robbery. In this case, the clerk described the suspect as a black male armed with a handgun.

Newman said the clerk was struck with the firearm.

“It appears that off-duty Carteret Police Officer Gary Juliano and Jackson school security officer Nelson Jusino pulled into the parking lot of the 7-Eleven while the robbery was in progress,” Newman said. “The suspect observed them and suddenly fled out of the store and across Route 526 into the residential area of Seminole Drive, Lakewood.”

Jackson police circulated a flier with a sketch of the suspect. The flier sought the public’s assistance in identifying the suspect.

Police said Brown was arrested without incident at his home in Jackson on July 6 and charged with two counts of armed robbery. Bail was set at $500,000 by Judge Francis Hodgson.

Additional charges of robbery, making terroristic threats and conspiracy were signed against Brown as a result of his alleged participation in robberies that occurred in South Brunswick, Manalapan and Howell.

Brown was unable to post bail and was lodged in the Monmouth County jail, Freehold Township.

Newton was also arrested on July 6 without incident at his place of employment, U.S. Security Associates, Lawrenceville. He was employed as a security guard.

South Brunswick police said a search warrant was executed at Newton’s residence in the Monmouth Junction section of South Brunswick and evidence was recovered. Newton was charged with robbery in connection with the Krauszer’s food store robbery in Jackson. Bail was set at $150,000 by Hodgson.

Additional charges of theft, making terroristic threats, conspiracy, possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes and unlawful possession of a weapon were signed against Newton for his alleged participation in robberies that occurred in South Brunswick, Manalapan and Howell.

Newton was unable to post bail and was lodged in the Middlesex County jail, North Brunswick.

Atkins was arrested on July 30 at the Goldview apartment complex off Joe Parker Road in Lakewood. The Lakewood Police Department, the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department K-9 Unit, and U.S. Marshal’s officers assisted in locating Atkins and taking the suspect into custody without incident.

Atkins was charged with robbery in connection with the Krauszer’s food store robbery in Jackson. Additional charges were signed against Atkins for his alleged participation in robberies that occurred in South Brunswick and Howell.

Bail was set at $250,000 by Hodgson. Atkins was unable to post bail and was lodged in the Ocean County jail, Toms River.

Drucker, of the Manalapan Police Department, said all of the detectives involved in the case should be commended for an excellent investigation that led to the apprehension of dangerous criminals.

Hayducka echoed that sentiment and said he personally commended Seaman for his diligence and professionalism, along with the other officers assigned to the police departments’ investigative bureaus.

Manalapan Police Chief Stuart C. Brown said this case is an excellent example of cooperation among police departments, and not just neighboring departments, but police in three counties, Monmouth, Ocean and Middlesex.

“They worked very hard putting this case together, acquiring all of the information and the facts they needed to obtain search warrants to execute and obtain evidence to be used to arrest and to even prosecute these individuals,” said Brown. “I think they did a fantastic job and they all should be commended.”