NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Rhadisha Maurrasse, a 37-year-old woman from New Brunswick, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for first-degree aggravated manslaughter in connection with a tragic shooting that occurred on April 19, 2021.
The incident, which took place across from a city park in New Brunswick, resulted in the death of Delfino Aparicio-Lopez, a 46-year-old city resident who was reportedly working as a driver at the time he was fatally struck by a stray bullet.
The shots, which Marrausse fired from her front porch on Handy Street, also caused a three-car crash near the corner with Paul Robeson Boulevard.
Maurrasse, who was 35 years old at the time, fired five or six shots, including at least one that struck Aparicio-Lopez. He was rushed to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased, leaving behind his wife and children.
“He was a selfless hardworking loving man that constantly thought of others,” his oldest son, Ariel Aparicio, told ABC7 shortly after the tragic killing.
An online fundraising campaign for the victim’s family has raised over $22,000 to support his surviving relatives.
Later investigations revealed crucial information about the events leading up to the tragedy.
One of the original 911 callers, who was identified by the initials C. S. in the initial court proceeding, reported that she knew Maurrasse and had been threatened by her before the shooting.
During the detention hearing held on April 27, 2021, Maurrasse’s attorney, Michael Policastro, acknowledged the tragic circumstances of the event, arguing that she did not deliberately shoot at Aparicio-Lopez.
Policastro claimed that his client’s actions were driven by fear and harassment she had allegedly endured from C. S. and Maurrasse’s intended target, a man named Hassan Reid.
Marrausse had admitted to the shooting, telling authorities she was aiming at Reid, who was seated in a vehicle driven by C. S. In her statement to police, Marrausse said she was in fear of Reid, and indicated where the weapon could be found in her home.
“This was a mistake,” said Policastro. “She did not intend this to happen.”
In that proceeding, Judge Thomas Buck ordered that Maurrasse be detained at the Middlesex County Jail in North Brunswick, pending a trial where she could have faced the prospect of life in prison.
Nearly two years later, Maurrasse agreed to plea deal where prosecutors would recommend a 20-year sentence.
Maurrasse faced serious charges, including first-degree murder, two additional attempted murder charges, plus possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, as well as hindering apprehension, and a prohibited weapons charge for possessing a sawed-off shotgun.
However, the hindering, weapons, and attempted murder charges were later dismissed as part of the deal for her to plead guilty to aggravated manslaughter instead of murder.
The original judgment of conviction, finalized on May 10 of this year by Judge Benjamin S. Bucca, initially stated that Maurrasse had pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.
However, that record was amended on May 24 to accurately reflect the charge of aggravated manslaughter, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $200,000 fine.
In the sentencing hearing on May 8, Judge Bucca took into account that Maurrasse had completed a mental health program and an anger management program, before sentencing her to 20 years in prison.
Maurrasse was then taken to the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in Clinton, where she is currently being held.
Her earliest possible release date is April 18, 2038, because she is ineligible for parole until she serves at least 85% of her sentence under the No Early Release Act.
Policastro, during sentencing, emphasized that Maurrasse’s intended target had previously threatened her and her family.
The father of Maurrasse’s children spoke as well, explaining how severely their children would be affected by their mother receiving a harsh sentence.
Maurrasse and her mother also addressed the court, expressing remorse for the tragic loss.
“I never meant to take anybody’s life, especially a life that was innocent. I live with it everyday,” said Maurrasse, as she cried during her statement to the Judge. “I acted out of fear… I can never tell this family how sorry I am because I took somebody dear to them.”
Assistant Prosecutor Vincent Vitale read a letter from the victim’s wife, translated from Spanish to English. The letter underscored the deep pain she feels and calls for justice for her and her children.
Remarkably, Delfino-Lopez’s oldest son had also written a compassionate letter, suggesting a sentence of “20-30 years, maybe less if she is genuinely a good person.”
After Ariel Aparicio gave his victim impact statement to the court, Judge Bucca praised him for showing great compassion and not being blinded by anger.
“Well, you’re a really good person,” said Bucca. “Even though a person caused you such harm, you still have the capability to show compassion, and that is a wonderful, wonderful quality, and I hope you never lose it.”
“Thank you for being here and speaking. Your father would be proud of you, sir.”
Bucca acknowledged Maurrasse’s remorse, but also noted that she engaged in reckless violence by firing a weapon openly on a busy street. He stated there was difficulty in weighing all the factors but ultimately deemed that aggravating and mitigating factors balanced each other out, and the proposed 20-year sentence was appropriate.
This incident has left a scar on the New Brunswick community, and a reminder of both the consequences of impulsive actions and the importance of understanding the impact one’s actions can have on others.