Jealous NJ man, 85, dragged romantic rival to death under his car

An 85-year-old man faces 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated manslaughter in the hit and run death of a romantic rival 2.5 years ago in New Jersey.

Johnny Westbrook, of Asbury Park, pleaded on Friday weeks before he was tried for murder in the December 2018 death of Daniel Rivera, 63, reported the Asbury Park Press.

When questioned by his public defender, Westbrook admitted hitting Rivera, his neighbor in an adjacent apartment building, and continued to drive with the victim trapped under the sport utility vehicle, dragging him over several feet and not stopping to offer help.

“Do you understand that by dragging him around and hitting him without stopping to ask for help, you showed extreme indifference to his life and that these actions caused his death?” the defense lawyer asked.

“Yes,” Westbrook said.

The Asbury Park Press reports that Westbrook has already served six years of a seven-year prison sentence in a February 2004 shooting in Neptune of a man having an affair with a 23-year-old woman Westbrook had offered an engagement ring.

Superior Court judge Ellen Torregrossa-O’Connor told him that without plea bargaining he could have faced up to 30 years for the first degree offense. The state agreed to treat it as a second degree felony and recommend a 10-year term. Prosecutors said he will have to serve 85% of that sentence before he is eligible for parole.

Joseph Cummings, deputy prosecutor for Monmouth County, told the judge the victim’s family had been consulted and approved for plea bargaining.

Cummings alleged that Westbrook followed Rivera to the supermarket, parked outside and waited for him to come out to run over him. The prosecutor alleges that about a month earlier, the two men physically fought in the hallway of the apartment building, swinging canes before Westbrook punched the victim in the nose.

Defense lawyers tried unsuccessfully earlier this year to have their client declared unfit for trial, claiming he had memory loss. A psychiatrist testified that Westbrook suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and seizure disorders and has had prostate cancer and several strokes. But she believed he was faking or exaggerating any memory loss.

(Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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