FREEHOLD — Two suspects charged in the shooting death of a 10-year-old boy pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree aggravated manslaughter, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office.

Karon Council, 19, fired five shots from across the street at the first floor apartment on Ridge Avenue in Asbury Park home where Yovanni Banos-Merino lived last March. In addition to the boy, a dozen people were inside the apartment when Council fired the shots. Police said the shooting was part of a dispute with Yovanni's brother, who was not injured. Yovanni's mother, Lilia, was also shot in the leg and recovered from her injuries.

Prosecutors said Jah-Del K. Birch, 17, was with Council when he knocked on the door and then fired at the house. Birch was arrested at Neptune High School the day after the shooting and later charged as an adult. Both are from Neptune City.

Council fled to Florida where he was taken into custody by US Marshals at a Pompano Beach apartment, authorities have said.

On Monday Council and Birch both pleaded guilty  to first-degree aggravated manslaughter, and second degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. Both plea agreements were made after consulting with Banos Merino's mother, according to the prosecutor's office.

As part of the plea agreement the prosecution will recommend Council be sentenced to 25 years in state prison, and be subject to the No Early Release Act, requiring him to serve 85 percent of his sentence before being eligible parole. The prosecution will recommend a sentence of 10 years for Birch, who would also be subject to the No Early Release Act. They would also both be subject to five years of parole supervision under the terms of their respective plea deals.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ


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