Two indicted for murder

FREEHOLD – A Monmouth County grand jury returned a nine count indictment on Monday charging two individuals in connection with the shooting and subsequent murder of Tyrita Julius, who had been missing for months, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

Tyrita Julius

On Nov. 24, 2015, at approximately 7:16 p.m., the Linden Police Department (Union County) was called to 913 Middlesex Street in Linden in reference to the report of a shooting. Upon arrival, police found 41-year-old Tyrita Julius shot several times in the driver’s seat of her vehicle, which was located a short distance from her residence. At the time of the incident, Tyrita’s teenage daughter was seated in the front passenger seat of the vehicle and was also the victim of a non-fatal gunshot wound.

The investigation into the shooting was on-going when, on March 9, 2016, after not hearing from her daughter, Tyrita Julius’ mother, Queen Julius, called the Linden Police Department to report her daughter missing. Ms. Julius told authorities that Tyrita had been spending time with a female friend in Tinton Falls on March 8th, but failed to return home later that evening. Linden Police were advised that calls and text messages to Tyrita Julius’ phone went unanswered. Queen Julius also told police her daughter was reportedly dropped off at the Long Branch Train Station at approximately 7 p.m., by her friend Jennifer Sweeney, of Tinton Falls.

Law enforcement authorities from the Union County Prosecutor’s Office and Linden Police Department contacted the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office about the investigation on the afternoon of March 11, 2016. A joint investigation by detectives from those agencies, as well as the Long Branch, Tinton Falls and New Jersey Transit police departments, was conducted into the whereabouts of Tyrita Julius and the circumstances surrounding her disappearance.

Ultimately, as part of their investigative efforts, police searched a home located on Joline Avenue in Long Branch on August 16, 2016. During the search, detectives ultimately discovered the body of Tyrita R. Julius, 41, who had been missing since March 8, 2016.

Based upon the investigation, Tyrita Julius’ friend, Jennifer Sweeney, 32, of Tinton Falls, and Andre Harris, 32, of Long Branch, the resident of the home on Joline Avenue, were charged in connection with the Murder of Tyrita Julius, which occurred on March 8, 2016 in Long Branch, as well as the initial shooting of Tyrita Julius in Linden on November 24, 2016.

The nine count Indictment charges Sweeney and Harris with two counts of first degree Attempted Murder, one count of first degree Conspiracy (to commit the crime of Murder), one count of second degree Unlawful Possession of a Weapon (Firearm) and one count of Possession of a Weapon (Firearm) for an Unlawful Purpose in connection with the shooting of Tyrita Julius and her daughter in Linden. The Indictment further charges Sweeney and Harris with one count of first degree Murder, one count of third degree Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose, one count of second degree Disturbing or Desecrating Human Remains, and one count of fourth degree Tampering with Physical Evidence in connection with the death of Tyrita Julius in Long Branch.

If convicted of first degree Attempted Murder or Conspiracy, the two face a maximum sentence of 20 years on each count, which would be subject to the provisions of the “No Early Release Act (“NERA”). NERA requires that a defendant serve 85% of the sentence imposed before becoming eligible for parole. If convicted of second degree Possession of a Firearm for an Unlawful Purpose and/or the Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, they face a maximum of ten years in State Prison, which is subject to a mandatory minimum of 1/3 of the sentence imposed or 3.5 years, whichever is greater, without parole.
If convicted of first degree Murder, Sweeney and Harris face a minimum sentence of thirty years in State Prison during which time they would be ineligible for parole and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, subject to NERA. The second degree Disturbing or Desecrating Human Remains charge carries a maximum term of 10 years in State Prison. The third degree Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose charge carries a maximum term of 5 years in State Prison while the fourth degree possession charge carries a maximum of 18 months in State Prison.

The case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Christopher J. Decker, Director of the Office’s Major Crimes Bureau.

Sweeney is represented by Edward C. Bertucio, Esq. of Hobbie Corrigan & Bertucio in Eatontown and Harris is represented by Jeffrey Coghlan, Esq. of Freehold.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.

Despite setbacks, St. Luke’s serves community

By Patty Booth O’Neill

Thirty five turkeys, eight turkey breasts, four hams and a ton of help from the community. “It really was a blessing,” said Marcus Phillips.

This is the first time St. Luke’s has not had chef Jerome overseeing the kitchen for  their annual Thanksgiving dinner.

“He’s very ill and the doctor said he shouldn’t even come to the dinner,” Avery Grant said. Over the years Chef Jerome had cooked all the turkeys at Fort Monmouth. “We didn’t think we would have Thanksgiving this year.”
But parishioners and volunteers stepped up and said, “we can do it,” and so they did.

Starting days before Thanksgiving food preparation began in  St. Luke’s kitchen. The dining area was decorated, tables set up and on Thanksgiving day volunteers made sure everything was ready.

The kitchen was crowded with cooks,
and volunteers. Buffet-style tables were filled with turkey, ham and all the side dishes with eager volunteers ready to serve the line of people happy for the blessing.  There was also plenty of beverages and dessert.

For the people who have come to depend on  the annual free dinner, some for the camaraderie, others to spend time with family and friends  and some who have no other place to go, had no idea it was almost not to be.

Flag football fundraiser for Lunch Break

This recent Black Friday marked the 15th Anniversary for the annual Little Silver versus Shrewsbury residents’ flag-football competition, which is a fundraiser for Lunch Break, Red Bank.  The tradition was first played in 2002 and has grown every year since in to a very festive, well-attended community event.  There are games for children, men, and women.

These hard-fought, flag-flag football games are exciting for all and of course bragging rights are important if you ask either town, but the true winner is Lunch Break.  This year over $10,000.00 was raised for the organization, which helps to put food on the table for thousands of families in need.
Lunch Break has served the community since 1983 by freely providing life’s basic necessities – food, clothing, and fellowship – to community members in need.  Its mission is to alleviate hunger and lead those they serve to self-sufficiency and healthier lifestyles.  Lunch Break serves everyone, with compassion and dignity.

The football game, played on the Count Basie Fields, Red Bank, has its playful trash-talking, but is truly a culmination of the friendships that are a part of this two-town family. The players volunteered at Lunch Break the week before Thanksgiving feeding breakfast to the Lunch Break clients.

Rick Brandt, Little Silver residents and the event coordinator said, “All of the good that exists in Little Silver and Shrewsbury is represented by this annual football game and it is our hope that through our efforts together, we can tackle hunger in our community.”  Brandt, along with his Little Silver teammates and Shrewsbury opponents collectively raised over $10,000.00 and a truckful of food and clothing for Lunch Break for the second straight year.  All of which, was presented to Lunch Break during halftime of the games. Brandt joined Lunch Break’s Board of Trustees this year and is its youngest member.

The Mayors from both towns and Principals from each school always represent their Boroughs during the pre-game coin toss while the Fire, Police and First Aid trucks from the two towns line the sidelines with the hundreds of spectators who fill the park each and every year.

This event would not have been possible without the generous sponsorship of GluckWalrath, Sickles Market, the Thygeson Family, ACME, Reardon Anderson, Quadrangle, Dom’s Cherry Street Deli, Primerica, Bagel Masters, Stephen Chagares, MD, PC, Troy & Zach Mulholland, The Klein Family, ABH Architecture.

Long Branch Elks serve Thanksgiving

By Patty Booth O’Neill

The Long Branch Elks Lodge held its fifth annual Thanksgiving dinner, which was free to the community,  on Thursday. All the tables were filled with family and friends and it seemed as if there were just as many volunteers as diners.

This year’s dinner was organized by Katherine Lumia, President of Junior Elks Antler Lodge No. 21.

Lumia has been a part of every Elks Thanksgiving dinner since they started. She is now a student at Monmouth University.
“We have volunteers from all over and they did so much,” said Katherine. “This would never have happened without their help.”

50 years of surf beaches in Long Branch celebrated

Long Branch — It took 50 years, but surfers from back in the day finally received the recognition they deserved. On September 24, The Kiernan Surfing Association placed a plaque at Seven Presidents Park, which used to be Kiernan Beach, recognizing a part of the Oceanfront Park that was the birthplace of organized surfing in New Jersey.

Councilman John Pallone commended the committee for their diligent work on getting the plaque placed at the park.

In 1965, what was then a privately-owned unused beach at the end of Kiernan Boulevard in Long Branch, became the first location where early adopters of surfing could practice their sport exclusively.

At that time, considered too dangerous, surfing was not permitted at almost all the private beach clubs that occupied the New Jersey oceanfront.

On a regular basis police would blow their whistles at surfers to get out of the water, then escort them off the beach.

“Some were not so cooperative,” organizer Ted Geiser told a laughing crowd of over a hundred people. “After ignoring the cops and then giving them a one-finger salute, one surfer was dragged off to jail.” That surfer stood next to Ted in his Hawaiian shirt, smiling and nodding his head.

Then Ted told about how a group of surfers joined hands with George Savoth, a surfing-friendly beach owner and owner of White Sands Beach Club, who agreed to lease the unoccupied beach to them for the purpose of riding waves.

“On one condition,” Savoth told the surfers. “You provide insurance and a lifeguard.” To cover those expenses each surfer paid $20 a year, and that’s how the Kiernan

A main contributer to the endeavor was Doctor Lou Salmon (left).

Surfing Association came to be.

The leasing arrangement continued until 1972, when Savoth sold Kiernan beach to the City of Long Branch.

In 1973, the City of Long Branch purchased additional connected beachfront properties, and later, by mutual agreement. the Monmouth County Park System assumed responsibility for operating the beach and established what is now recognized as Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park.

Getting the plaque placed wasn’t an easy task. “Thanks go out to the project development team, Ted Brantly, Todd Thompson, Scott Thompson, Chris Geiling, and Charlie Kunes. We all worked tirelessly on this project, and today we have finally achieved our goal. Special thanks go out to Kiernan member Honorable Ron Reisner for his efforts on our behalf,” said Geiser.

Last year, members of the Kiernan Surfing Association had gathered at the park for a reunion.

This year, they repeated the event with and unveiling of the plaque bearing local surfer and North Long Branch surf shop owner Jimmy Jeffrey, who passed away a few years ago.

The beautiful photo was taken by Greg Brower, who was 15 years old at the time. “I wish I had taken more photos, but film was expensive for a 15-year-old at the time,” he said. “And most of the time my camera was on the beach and I was in the water.”

There were many present who

helped bring the project to fruition, though some could not attend.

Supporters included current and former Friends of the Park Presidents Elwood Baxter and Tom Sannelli as well as from Congressman Frank Pallone, Long Branch Business Administrator Howard Woolley, Monmouth County Freeholder John P. Curley, Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long, and Mayor John Ekdahl of Rumson.

“Our final debt of gratitude goes out to Kiernan member Doctor Lou Salmon. Without his contribution, this all would not be possible.

“This is a special day,” Geiser said holding up different plaques presented to the association from several dignitaries. “This was a long time coming.”

Visit to order your Friends of Kiernan tee shirts with the Kiernan plaque on the back!

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 6, 2016 print edition of The Link News

Self-proclaimed pedophile found guilty of abusing four boys

FREEHOLD – A Middletown man was found guilty of preying on young video-gamers using his X-Box gaming system as a tool to sexually abuse the boys, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

Gary Wolchesky, 28, of Middletown, was found guilty Friday afternoon of 21 counts related to the sexual assaults of the boys, including two counts of first degree Aggravated Sexual Assault and four counts of second degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child by Manufacturing Child Pornography.

Wolchesky is scheduled to be sentenced on March 3, before Monmouth Superior Court Judge Richard English, where he could face more than 61 years in a New Jersey state prison.

Following years of delays as Wolchesky repeatedly filed motions contesting the case, jury selection began on October 13, 2016. At trial, the four boys, now young men, from Massachusetts, North Carolina and Florida came to New Jersey to testify.

Before and during the trial, Wolchesky advocated against what he viewed as the unfair treatment of pedophiles. Using his Xbox, Wolchesky befriended four boys during 2008 and 2009, and convinced the boys, between the ages of 10-15, to send their naked pictures to him. Wolchesky would also ask the boys to masturbate and instructed some of them to penetrate themselves. The Xbox message system only saved the photographs he received from the boys for a certain number of days, he would videotape himself opening the photographs that were messaged to him and saved that video to a computer hard drive. On at least one occasion he engaged in a video chat with a boy and convinced the boy to strip for him.

Wolchesky, acting as his own attorney, argued he never instructed the boys to penetrate themselves and all the boys consented to the conduct. The self-proclaimed pedophile also argued he was merely acting out of civil disobedience to advance the cause of pedophilia. The jury convicted him of all 21 counts they were asked to consider.

The case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutors William Somers and Margaret Koping. Wolchesky represented himself at trial (pro se) with the assistance of stand-by attorney Michael Kuhns, Esq., of Morristown.

Oceanport honors Veterans Day

By Patty Booth O’Neill
“There’s background noise, it’s a little windy, and the flag is flapping in the wind. That’s how it should be,” said special guest speaker Lt. Colonel (retired) John E. Occhipinti. He had served in the military for over 22 years, enlisting in 1981, some of those years at Fort Monmouth.
Because of background noise, a lot could not be heard, but it didn’t matter. Everyone present either was a Veteran, knew a Veteran or would someday be a Veteran. They already knew in their hearts what was being said and celebrated.
The ceremony began with prayers led by Borough Chaplin Stacie Deerin and then America was performed by Borough Clerk Genie Smith.

Councilman John Patti with Councilmen Joe Irace and Richard Gallo by his side did a great job presiding over the event. “Mayor Jay Coffey could not be present as he is out of the country right now,” Patti explained, then read a letter from the mayor. He also introduced Oceanport resident and World War II Veteran Pete Bova, who spoke about his experience and those of his brother Joseph, who had been a prisoner of war for two years.

Patti then introduced students from Maple Place School, who read their essays on what Veteran’s Day meant to them. The winning essays were written by Nick Bennett, 5th grade; Frankie Salamone, 6th; Amelie Huang, 7th and Brenna O’Brien, 8th grade.

Amelie’s essay, written in the form of  poem, titled The Veterans of Our Day, began:
Veterans, Veterans,
Veterans Day
Our freedom, our pride, our lives they saved.
Their bravery guided us,
When we went astray.
Veterans, Veterans, Veterans Day…

Members of different squads placed wreaths on plaques representing Veterans from the First Aid Squad, Lions Club and Fire Department.

Lieutenant Occhipinti told the crowd that patriotism is not just serving your country in the military. “My heros have always been my soldiers. What makes this country safe are our Vets,” he said. “But you don’t have to be in the military. Everything you do is what keeps this the great country it is.”


Jersey Shore Chef’s Challenge another success for Greater Long Branch Chamber of Commerce

By Patty Booth O’Neill
The Annual Jersey Shore Chef’s Challenge was another successful event hosted by the Greater Long Branch Chamber of Commerce. Almost 200 people attended the gala, which was dedicated to the Kay Guadagno Memorial Fund at Monmouth Medical Center.
The large room at the Ocean Place Resort and Spa in Long Branch was filled with aromas, delightful culinary dishes to tempt the appetite and plenty of people ready to sample and then submit their vote for their favorite dish. The tables, attractively decorated with beautiful centerpieces by Flowers by Van Brunt, were in the center of the room while chefs outlined the perimeter.

There were two categories of awards, one chosen by four judges and the other was the People’s Choice Award chosen by diners.

Four judges, Lou Morreale, JBJ Soul Kitchen; Brian Petersen, PCII, Chef Manager at Rutgers University; Michael Sirianni, Principal/ Director for the Culinary Education Center and David Strollo, What’s On Your

Plate, rated dishes on taste, plating and originality.

There were so many dishes that it was hard to choose a favorite.

The judges choice was Trama’s Trattoria on Brighton Ave., Long Branch. Chef Michael Butler served a Lamb Ragu topped with Pomegranate Seeds.

People’s Choice went to The 2nd Flr. Restaurant for Sam Nativo’s Pumpernickel Bread Gnocci, Pastrami Roast Pig, Fried Brussel Sprouts and Peppercorn Cream. Happy for Sam was his partner Michael Bienz from Mix Lounge, who served a Low & Slow Pork Belly on a Cornmeal Pancake, Chipotle BBQ Glaze and Country Slaw.

“I had a great time judging all the chefs,” said Lou Morreale. “Everyone had great ideas and really showed their skills.”

There was so much to choose from such as a  delicious Lobster Salad sandwich by Master Chef Ken Mansfield, Beach Tavern, or Joe & Joe Jr Tuzzio’s Italian Cuisine’s chicken dish that had them going back for seconds.

Chef Pedro Custodio from Mar Belo served Tile Fish over a delicious creamy risotto, while Chef George Werns from the Ocean Place Resort and Spa served a Southwest Chipotle Shrimp dish that was amazing. Chef

Paul Holzheimer from the Grand Tavern in Neptune served a smokey pumpkin soup that had everyone talking, and Chef Thomas Schoborg from Rooney’s Oceanfront Restaurant handed out Sous Vide Lobster Risotto.

The Culinary Education Center of Monmouth County did not forget about pleasing the sweet tooth, serving an amazing Crispy Apple Pecan Baklava Nests. Yes they were as good as they sound. And Taste the Cakes had an assortment of delights to chose from.

Dark City Brewing Co. served one of its famous concoctions made out of blueberries, and Court Liquors offered a sampling of beers.

Hello Chef in West End  served Achiote Shrimp Stew with Orange Fennel Broth, while the Fromagerie’s Chef John Doughterty served a hearty beef dish that could have been dinner.

The Chef Challenge Committee was made up of Sam Nativo, Mary George, Pauline Poyner, Michael Bienz, Joan Wills, Nancy Kleiberg, Aaron Levine, Darrell Wordelmann and Lisa George.

“This was a great night,” said Nancy Kleiberg, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce. “We had some new chefs here and they all were great!”

Former Oceanport resident charged with NYC murder

New York City – According to the New York Police Department two men have been arrested and charged with the murder of Joseph Comunale, 26, of Stamford, Connecticut.

Lawrence Dillione, formerly of Oceanport, charged with the murder of Joseph Comunale. Photo taken from his Facebook page


Arrested was James Rackover, 25, of New York City, also arrested was Lawrence Dillione, 28, currently residing in Jersey City and formerly of Oceanport. The two men were charged with second-degree murder, concealment of a human corpse and tampering with physical evidence. Dillione was also charged with first-degree hindering prosecution.

On November 16, police officers from the NYPD, Oceanport, Monmouth County Sherriff’s Office and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office descended on a wooded area located behind Foggia Florist and the former Oceanport Borough Hall.

A cadaver dog was brought onto the site early that morning and led police to a freshly dug grave. According to law enforcement, a charred body was discovered buried about two feet below ground in a suitcase.

The Monmouth County Medical Examiner determined that Comunale was stabbed 15 times and was burned. Police found gasoline in the shallow grave.

Stamford Police said that Comunale was reported missing on Monday morning by his father. He told police that his son went to New York City to attend a party with his friends at the Grand Sutton, an apartment building on East 59th Street.

Rackover one of the accused killers, lives in the Grand Sutton. Detectives found “a substantial amount of blood evidence” in the building and in plastic bags that had been thrown down a garbage chute. The items recovered were bloody sheets, towels and clothing that belonged to Comunale.

Rackover is alleged to have changed his last name to that of the famous New York City jeweler, Jeffery Rackover who is friends with President Elect Donald Trump and many in the entertainment industry. Some say that he changed name to get away from a criminal past he had in Florida. He did live with Rackover, but it’s reported that they didn’t act like father and son. Police also have a Mercedes in custody and is suspected as the vehicle used to transport the body to Oceanport.

Police developed information which led them to the grave in Oceanport. Dillione, graduated from Red Bank Catholic in 2006.

Body said to be in suitcase in shallow grave

Oceanport — The body of a Connecticut man who had been missing since this weekend was reportedly discovered Wednesday in a shallow grave behind the former Oceanport borough hall and police department and Foggia’s Florists.

Police examine the area behind the former Oceanport Borough Hall where a man’s body was reportedly discovered.

Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Charles Webster said he could not confirm any facts of the investigation yet.

Bill Hazley, owner of Foggia Florists and the greenhouses, said the area was full of cops when he arrived at work on Wednesday morning. “No one is confirming anything, but with all this activity going on, it [rumors of a body being found] must be true.”

As The Link was going to press on Wednesday (and as of this posting online), police had not confirmed the identity of the body, or officially said more than there was an ongoing investigation. However, The Link saw numerous police vehicles, including from the New York Police Department, at the Monmouth Boulevard location. And numerous sources have told numerous news outlets they believe the victim was Joseph Comunale, 26, of Stamford, Conn., who had last been seen in Manhattan.

On Sunday morning, according to NBC News and the NY Daily News, Comunale was seen in Manhattan, at The Grand Sutton Building on East 59th Street.

His father reported him missing on Monday. Police said that he had been visiting friends in New York.

Cadaver dogs were called in to Oceanport to help locate the body, which was reportedly found in a suitcase buried two feet deep.

New York police were also seen at the apartment where Comunale had last been seen, taking items from it. The Daily News reports that dogs were brought in, got agitated at certain spots, and black light revealed blood residue.

While no suspects have been named or arrests made, sources have told The Link that the people at the apartment with Comunale on Sunday where local shore area residents, and familiar with the former police department location, which was rendered unusable by damage from Superstorm Sandy four years ago.