N.J. dad charged with killing 9-year-old son, burning his body dies in hospital

A New Jersey father accused of killing his 9-year-old son and torching his car with the child inside has died in the hospital, officials said Wednesday.

Manuel Rivera of Sayreville, just southwest of Manhattan, was found by police outside the burning vehicle behind Sayreville War Memorial High School late on March 28. He had burns to his body and a self-inflicted throat laceration.

The body of his son, Christian Rivera, was found inside the car, according to police.

The 43-year-old father was taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and later charged with murder, second-degree aggravated arson, second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, and second-degree desecration of human remains.

Rivera, who had been hospitalized in critical condition since the incident, died Wednesday, Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone and Sayreville Police Chief Daniel Plumacker said in a joint statement.

The incident appears to have been related to a dispute between the child’s parents.

Authorities received a 911 call to report a fire near the Sayreville school just before 11 p.m. on March 28.

As responding officers arrived at the scene, another 911 call came in “to report a related domestic dispute” at a home in Sayreville.

When police arrived at the residence, a female victim alerted authorities that Rivera had left the home with their 9-year-old son following a “domestic dispute.”

Earlier this month, police said Rivera had left a handwritten suicide note in the family’s garage in Sayreville before carrying out his alleged crime. He also left his wife a video message in which he apologized for his actions.

Investigators believe Rivera killed the child, a third-grader at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School, before setting the car on fire. He also appeared to be sitting inside the vehicle when it went up in flames but later exited the car.