FREEHOLD, NJ – Former New Jersey Thunder girls travel softball coach Andre Harris, 32, is facing a murder rap in Monmouth County, officials said Wednesday.
A former North Brunswick resident now living in Long Branch, Monmouth County, Harris was charged Tuesday night with the first degree murder of Linden resident Tyrita Julius, 41, who disappeared March 8, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
Gramiccioni said that family members reported Julius missing after she failed to come home from a day visit with “a close” girlfriend, Jennifer Sweeney, 32, of Tinton Falls.
Sweeney, who is also charged with first degree murder, allegedly told police that she dropped Julius off at the Long Branch train station that evening, police said.
Subsequent investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, Union County Prosecutor’s Office, Linden Police Department, Tinton Falls Police Department, Long Branch Police and New Jersey Transit eventually led authorities to Harris’s home in Long Branch where investigators discovered Julius’s body buried in the backyard Tuesday, police said.
An autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday, but Gramiccioni said it may be some days before the cause of death is announced.
“Significant efforts were made to bring us to the discovery we all feared – Tyrita Julius died a tragic death,” he said. “Tyrita was not dropped off at the Long Branch Train Station, instead Tyrita was murdered.”
Other than saying that Sweeney and Julius were “close” friends that did spend time together, Gramiccioni did not go into the possible motive for the killing or the relationship between Sweeney and Harris.
“That will be presented through the course of the case,” he said.
Union County Prosecutor Grace Park said that both Sweeney and Harris are also charged with the attempted murder of Julius in November, when she was shot close to her home in Linden.
Police were called on Nov. 24 after Julius and a teenage female passenger were both shot in their vehicle.
Julius spent several weeks in the hospital recovering from her injuries, Park said, but had not apparently had the chance to speak with law enforcement before going missing in March.
At that point, the two investigations converged leading to Tuesday night’s gruesome discovery.
In addition to the murder charge, Harris and Sweeney both face conspiracy, attempted murder, desecration of human remains and obstructing justice counts.
Gramiccioni said that the investigation is continuing and did not rule out further charges or arrests.
The pair are currently jailed on a combined bail of $2 million cash each from both counties, police said.
Harris was the coach of the New Jersey Thunder girls travel softball team until 2011 when he was charged with credit card fraud, paying some $10,000 to hotels for team rooms as well as payments to T-Mobile and Cablevision using a California woman’s credit card, Former Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano said at the time.
Then 28 and a resident of North Brunswick, Harris allegedly used the stolen Discover card to pay for rooms for the team at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida between July 1-Aug. 1, 2011, police said.
The South Brunswick based teams, made up of girls aged between 13-23, participated in a tournament at the time of the charges, police said.
TAP Into South Brunswick and Cranbury was not able to find out the disposition of that former case as of Wednesday evening.