9-year-old’s body found in burning car, father charged with murder

Posted at 12:59 PM, April 1, 2024

SAYREVILLE, N.J. — A New Jersey father is accused of killing his son, whose body was found inside a burning car, after a domestic dispute.

Manuel Rivera, 43, is charged with murder, aggravated arson, endangering the welfare of a child and desecration of human remains for the death of his 9-year-old son, whose name has not been publicly released.

In a news release, the Sayreville Police Department said their officers were called to two related scenes on March 28 at approximately 10:45 p.m. The first scene was the site of a domestic dispute at a home, where a woman told officers that Rivera had left with their son.

Police responding to separate 911 calls reporting a fire near Sayreville High School found Rivera next to a burning vehicle, which police said was doused in gasoline before being set on fire. Authorities on the scene described Rivera as “alive but with burns to his body and a self-inflicted wound,” but did not offer any further information about the nature of his injuries.

Inside the burning vehicle, investigators found the body of the 9-year-old child, but have not said how the boy was killed or whether he was dead before the car was set on fire.

In a statement to the community, Sayreville Public Schools Superintendent Ricard Labbe said that Rivera was an employee of the school district. Rivera was employed as a cafeteria worker and a driver, effective Jan. 1, 2024, according to records reviewed by MyCentralJersey.com.

Sayreville police say they are continuing to investigate the murder and have asked anyone with surveillance video that may show the area where the car was found to contact them.

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