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Father Charged After 9-Year-Old Found Dead In Burning Car

A New Jersey dad was arrested on Friday after police found his son’s body inside a burning vehicle behind a local high school, Sayreville police and Middlesex county prosecutors announced.

Authorities had initially responded to reports of a fire near Sayreville War Memorial High School around 10:45 p.m. Thursday night when a domestic dispute call, which a police press release described as “related,” came in.  The female victim in the alleged dispute told officers that Manuel Rivera, 43, had left their home with their 9-year-old son.

At the high school, police found Rivera alive near his burning vehicle, the release stated. A deceased child was found inside Rivera’s car, which had been doused with gasoline and was engulfed in flames.

Manuel Rivera, 43, was charged with aggravated arson, murder, endangering the welfare of a child and desecration of human remains. According to police, Rivera had burns on his body and a self-inflicted wound, and was taken to a local hospital in critical condition.

A 9-year-old boy was found dead inside a burning car behind Sayreville War Memorial High School.
A 9-year-old boy was found dead inside a burning car behind Sayreville War Memorial High School. Google Maps

Rivera had been hired by the school district in January as a part-time cafeteria worker and driver, according to a school board agenda.

Police did not identify the child. However, Sayreville Superintendent Richard Labbe confirmed in a statement on the school website that the victim was a student at an elementary school in the district.

“If you are a person of faith, please take the time to pray for our student and his family, including his extended family at the Wilson School,” Labbe stated. “If you are not, please take a moment to send your positive thoughts to him and his family.”

In a statement posted on Friday, Sayreville Mayor Kennedy O’Brien called the incident “senseless violence” that had shaken the community to its core.

“On behalf of a shocked and saddened community, I want to say that Sayreville stands in solidarity with the child and the family and friends who are enduring this inconceivable ordeal,” the mayor stated.

Leo DaSilva, one of the family’s neighbors, told NBC New York that the 9-year-old was a “very happy kid.”

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