WOODBURY, N.J. (AP) — A Philadelphia man has been sentenced to 115 years in prison in the murder of a New Jersey father authorities said was killed as his captive children listened. Superior Court Judge Kevin Smith imposed the sentence on John Blocker during an emotional hearing Friday.
Authorities said four assailants seeking money in 2006 tied up the three children of 36-year-old Juan Cuevas Sr. of Washington Township and held them until Cuevas and his wife returned from their Philadelphia auto parts business.
Blocker, 46, the only person charged, was convicted in May of murder, aggravated manslaughter, robbery, burglary and kidnapping.
The youngest of the Cuevas children, now in his 20s but 14 at the time, told the court that his father had been “brutally murdered … due to the evilness” of the defendant, recalling entering his home and having a gun pointed at his head.
“Pure fright was all I could feel at that very moment,” he said, adding that he had tried to cope for years with the trauma and also speaking about the loss of his mother seven months ago.
“One day, I woke up and decided to no longer be a victim, but to be a survivor,” he said.
Authorities said Cuevas Sr. was taken to an upstairs bedroom, where he was beaten and tortured with a clothing iron. At one point, the assailants brought his daughter in and threatened to shoot her, they said. After they left, the teens freed themselves and tried in vain to revive their father.
“What they had to experience is like a horror move,” Assistant Prosecutor Alec Gutierrez said. “They can describe smelling something burning, which ultimately was the iron that was on Juan Cuevas Sr.’s back.”
Nine years ago, a fingerprint recovered from the scene came back as a match for Blocker, whose DNA was also found at the scene, authorities said.
Defense attorney Michael Schreiber, who unsuccessfully sought a new trial Friday, challenged fingerprint and DNA evidence at trial, suggesting that Blocker may have been in the home at another time. Blocker declined to address the court.
Gutierrez cited the defendant’s six prior Pennsylvania convictions for offenses including theft, weapons possession, receiving stolen property and simple assault. Smith ruled that the convictions, including 50 years for felony murder, should be served consecutively.
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