NEWARK, NJ - Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino announced today that Marquis Armstrong, 24, of Newark pled guilty today to aggravated manslaughter for fatally shooting Rhasan Heath, 23, of Irvington on Sept. 4, 2014.
On the second day of a jury trial before the Honorable James W. Donohue, Judge of the Superior Court, Armstrong asked to enter a guilty plea to aggravated manslaughter and unlawful possession of a .45 caliber handgun in exchange for the state recommending a 25-year sentence.
Under the terms of the plea agreement Armstrong must serve 85 percent of the 25-year sentence before he is eligible for parole.
After conferring with the family, the state decided to accept the plea, said Assistant Prosecutor Eileen O’Connor who handled the case with Assistant Prosecutor Jason Goldberg.
Sentencing is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 18 at 1:30 p.m.
The shooting occurred in the 800 block of Grove Street in Irvington. The state’s theory as presented at trial was that Armstrong was angry because his ex-girlfriend had terminated their relationship and started dating Heath. On the day of the homicide, Armstrong’s ex-girlfriend and their daughter were at Heath’s sister’s home.
Earlier in the day, Armstrong repeatedly called and texted the ex-girlfriend to let her know he was upset with her bringing his daughter around Heath. Just before midnight on Sept. 3, 2014 Heath went to the house and waited for the ex-girlfriend and Heath to exit, according to Assistant Prosecutor Goldberg. As they walked toward the ex-girlfriend’s red Oldsmobile Alero, Armstrong began shooting at Heath. Heath ran into the street where he was struck by a car, Goldberg said.
Armstrong then came up to Heath as he was laying helpfulness on the ground and shot at Heath five times, striking him three times. Goldberg said the final shot, at the base of Heath’s skull, killed him in front of the ex-girlfriend and their one-year-old daughter.
“This is another example of a tragedy that occurred because of the presence of illegal weapons,’’ said Assistant Prosecutor O’Connor.
Armstrong has one prior conviction for unlawful possession of a weapon, resisting arrest and possession of a control dangerous substance.
If Armstrong had not entered a guilty plea, he faced life in prison if convicted of murder and the weapons charges.