NEWARK, N.J.: A corrections officer accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend and her friend shortly after the women had returned home from a vacation trip will remain jailed until his murder trial, a judge rule Monday.
Essex County Judge Ronald Wigler made the decision following a detention hearing. He cited the seriousness of the charges faced by John Menendez, 23, of West New York, and noted that prosecutors seem to have a very strong case.
Defense Attorney Raoul Bustillo said Menendez does not plan to fight allegations that he killed the women, but will present a passion-provocation defense, arguing the shootings occurred in the heat of the moment.
Menendez faces two counts of murder stemming from the deaths of his girlfriend, Anna Shpilberg, of Randolph, and Luiza Shinkarevskaya, of Riverdale. The women, who were both 40, had each been shot in the head and were found Feb. 16 in different areas of Newark.
Shpilberg was found dead in the passenger seat of her car. Authorities said Menendez, who had blood on him, walked up to a Newark police officer who was sitting in his patrol car near the scene and confessed to the shootings.
Around this time, Shinkarevskayas body was found on a sidewalk not far from the airport. The gun Menendez allegedly used to shoot both women was found near her body, authorities said.
The shootings occurred shortly after Menendez had picked up the women at Newark Liberty International airport when they returned home from their trip, according to court documents. Authorities have said Menendez was angry because he felt Shpilberg had ignored his calls while the women were on vacation.
Friends have said the two women came to the United States as children from their native Ukraine.
Menendez has worked for the Hudson County jail for about a year, and his job status wasn’t clear Monday.
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