Manuel Rivera: Father arrested for murder as son, 9, found dead in burned car near NJ high school after domestic dispute

Manuel Rivera: Father arrested for murder as son, 9, found dead in burned car near NJ high school after domestic dispute
Manuel Rivera, 43, was also found at the scene with self-inflicted wounds (Getty Images)

SAYREVILLE, NEW JERSEY: Authorities discovered the lifeless body of a nine-year-old boy inside a vehicle engulfed in flames on March 28, 2024, shortly after the father allegedly left the child in the gasoline-soaked car.

Police uncovered this grim scene behind Sayreville War Memorial High School, where the burnt car was located. The father of the boy, identified as Manuel Rivera, 43, was also found at the scene with self-inflicted wounds.

What did police report after receiving 911 call?

Emergency services received a 911 call around 10.45 p.m., reporting a fire near Sayreville High School. 

While en route, another call came in regarding a related domestic dispute. Responding to this, authorities proceeded to Eisenhower Drive in Sayreville, where they found a female victim who informed them about the domestic altercation.

According to the New York Post, the female has been reported as Rivera's wife.

The altercation resulted in Manuel Rivera, aged 43 and from Sayreville, leaving the residence with their 9-year-old son.

At the location near the rear of Sayreville High School on Washington Road, authorities discovered Rivera alive but with burn injuries and a self-inflicted wound. 

Adjacent to Rivera, there was a vehicle ablaze, having been 'doused' with 'gasoline'. 

Rivera was rushed to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, where he remains in critical condition, receiving treatment for his injuries.

Preliminary investigations have indicated that the body of a deceased child was discovered inside the vehicle. 



 

What are the charges placed on Manuel Rivera?

Following the findings of the autopsy, Rivera has been charged with second-degree aggravated arson, first-degree murder, second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, and second-degree desecration of Human Remains.

The nine-year-old boy attended Sayreville public schools, where Rivera was also employed. Rivera began working for the school district in December 2023 as a cafeteria worker/driver.

Labbe urged members of the school community to keep the student in their prayers, for those who are religious, or to send positive thoughts to the family.

Anyone with information or surveillance footage from the area is urged to contact Detective Michael Pirigyi of the Sayreville Police Department at 732-727-4444 or Detective Jose Rosario of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at 732-745-3289.

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