A calm yet emotionally charged testimony from Ravi Sinha describing the fatal attack on his father, Divyendu Sinha, was the focus April 20 in the trial of Stephen Contreras at the Middlesex County Superior Court in New Brunswick, N.J.
“That was the worst day of my life. My father was killed,” the 14-year-old Ravi Sinha was quoted as saying in The Star-Ledger. The teen broke down when he heard the recording of his 911 call to police, the paper said.
Contreras is one of five former Old Bridge High School students charged with murder in an unprovoked attack the Sinha family on June 25, 2010. Prosecutors have said that Contreras was the driver of the getaway car and four other teens attacked Divyendu Sinha and his sons, Aashish and Ravi. Divyendu Sinha, a 49-year-old computer scientist, died at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick from his injuries three days later.
Contreras, who turns 19 on April 28, is not accused of taking part in the violence, but prosecutors contend he is as guilty of murder as the attackers because he drove them around that night and shared in their intent to harm anyone they came across. Contreras is being tried separately because his statement to the police implicates the other four defendants – Cash Q. Johnson, 18; Christian M. Tinli, 19; Christopher Conway, 18; and Julian C. Daley, 17 – who are scheduled to stand trial July 10. All defendants, who are Old Bridge residents and were juveniles at the time of the incident, are charged with murder, three counts of aggravated assault, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, conspiracy to commit riot, criminal mischief and two counts of hindering. An earlier Family Court decision allowed the five defendants to be tried as adults; they face 30 years to life if convicted of murder.
The trial resumed April 24, as Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Kuberiet played an audio recording of a statement Contreras gave to police. Tinli and Johnson, both star athletes at the high school, were looking for a fight, Contreras said on the tape.
In the videotaped statement Contreras outlined to investigators how he watched from a distance as his four co-defendants attacked what he thought was another group of kids. “I never saw the family,” said Contreras and talked about how he pulled up some distance from the Sinha family, got out of the car briefly, then returned to the car. “I wasn’t feeling like I was with them, so I said, ‘Yo, guys, I’m going to get the car,” Contreras said.
Contreras walked investigators through the entire evening, which included the four co-defendants drinking alcohol at a local schoolyard before the attack on the Sinha family. Contreras said he did not drink.
Prior to that attack, Contreras talked about the group’s unsuccessful attempt to attack Anthony Martino, whom the group followed for a brief time and confronted before the attack on the Sinha family. One of the five threw a lawn lantern at the car Martino was driving, causing $2,200 worth of damage before the group continued driving around.
Dr. Junaid R. Shaikh, Union County deputy medical examiner, who performed the autopsy on Divyendu Sinha, testified on April 20 that Sinha died as a result of blunt-force trauma to the head and that the manner of death was homicide. Shaikh said his examination of Sinha on June 29, 2010, revealed bruises to muscles around Sinha’s head, with injuries to the surface and substance of the brain, leading to cerebral hemorrhage.
“His brain swelled, there was herniation, and it resulted in his demise,” Shaikh said in response to questions from Kuberiet, who showed numerous autopsy photos.