HOWELL — A Lakewood man has been charged with the death of a man whose body was found on a road in Allaire State Park early Friday.

Juan Carlos Rivera Rojas, also known as Omar Rivera Rojas, 29, was charged first-degree murder in the death of Domingo Merino Rafael, 33, also of Lakewood.

Investigators who found Rafael's body on Hurley Pond Road near Route 547 in Howell initially thought he was the victim of a hit-and-run crash but that was ruled out after the county Serious Collision Analysis Response Team arrived, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said.

The prosecutor said Rafael and Rojas got into an argument as they returned together to Lakewood from Middlesex County around 3 a.m., and their dispute ended with Rafael's death. Gramiccioni did not disclose what they argued about or how Rafael was killed.

Rafael was "obviously deceased" when EMTs arrived and was declared dead remotely by a doctor at Newark Beth Israel Hospital, Gramiccioni said.

NBC New York, citing law enforcement sources and a witness NBC did not name, reported that it appeared Rafael tried to escape and his face was hacked. Prosecutors have not publicly confirmed this report.

Rojas is being held in the Monmouth County Correctional Institution in Freehold Township pending his first appearance on Nov. 1 followed by a detention hearing. No other charges beyond the murder charge were announced.

Gramiccioni credited work among several law enforcement agencies for making the arrest possible.

“This arrest was the result of outstanding work done by all the investigators from our Major Crimes Bureau and Forensics Unit, as well as the Howell Township Police Department, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office and the Lakewood Police Department. The inter-agency cooperation could not have been better,” Gramiccioni said.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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