By JOANNE L. PAPAPAINNI
Law enforcement officials arrested three Asbury Park men for the murder of Denzel Morgan-Hicks on Thanksgiving Eve, Nov. 22, outside of the Frederick Douglass housing complex in Asbury Park.
Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said a comprehensive investigation involving the prosecutor’s office Major Crimes Unit, the Asbury Park Police Department and the Neptune Township Police Department resulted in the arrests of Steven Taylor, 36, Michael Taylor, 33 and Avery Hopes, 23.
All three were charged with murder, conspiracy, and weapons possession charges.
Gramiccioni said Michael Taylor was arrested in Marlboro, while the other two were charged in the Monmouth County Correctional Institute where they are serving time on unrelated charges.
All there are now being detained at the MCCI and were expected to appear in court Wed., June 13.
If convicted of murder they will face a minimum of 30 years in prison without parole and a maximum life imprisonment.
Gramiccioni said Morgan-Hicks, a former city resident who now lives in Barnegat, was in the city visiting friends when he was killed.
His mother and two other relatives attended the press conference.
The prosecutor said the answer to why Morgan-Hicks was murdered will be revealed during trial.
“Stayed tuned and watch, you will see and hear why,” he said.
Gramiccioni did say the murder appears to be “petty score settling” related to a violent act that took place in 2011.
He then said the murders and shootings happening in Asbury Park, even though they take place on different streets and different dates, have their origins in one of three things: gangs, some petty disputes or drug deals gone bad.
Gramiccioni also made a plea to the public to help law enforcement by providing information that will result in arrests.
He said in a city of 16,000 residents there are only 25 to 75 people known to law enforcement who commit all of the violent crimes.
“It takes information to bring these people to justice,” he said. “We can do this together, we can solve this, we will never give up on this community, but we need the public’s help. It takes that proverbial village.”
Gramiccioni also cited four unsolved murders, two in Neptune Township and two in Asbury Park, law enforcement is working on.
One is the murder of Mark Ruffin at the Jumping Brook Apartment complex in Neptune on May 15, 2017, Frantz Paraison and Shaezel Collins on Sayre Street in Neptune on Sept. 30, 2017 and Dexter Dunston on Third Avenue in Asbury Park on Dec. 2, 2016.
The prosecutor also said he understands why residents are hesitant to provide information to the police but cited the Monmouth County Crime Stoppers, a charity that takes information anonymously.
“They are not law enforcement and there is no trace back,” he said.
Gramiccioni also said the charity will sometimes give reward money if a suspect is caught.
“No questions asked,” he said.
To provide information to crime stoppers, call 800.671.4400, text MONMOUTH to 274637 or email to www.