Peter LaBrada talks to Eyewitness News

September 14, 2009 3:12:23 PM PDT
A man wrongly accused in a murder is now out of prison and at home for good.Peter LaBrada was indicted for a murder in Newark two and a half years ago and was facing life in prison. Now, charges have been dropped, and he is a free man.

It was a joyous homecoming for LaBrada, but the joy is mixed with anger directed at the Essex County Prosecutor's Office. LaBrada's family claims that the dismissed murder charge has unfairly haunted him.

It was an emotional moment Monday afternoon when the 24-year-old LaBrada greeted his little brother, just off the school bus.

It's been a painful two and a half years for the close-knit family in Morganville, New Jersey. Their lives started unraveling when Essex County cops stormed into the house and dragged Peter out of his bed, accusing him of a murder outside a Newark nightclub.

"It was very unfair how they treated me," LaBrada said. "Instead of investigating further, accusing me of something I didn't have nothing to do with."

The prosecution's case started unraveling when Peter proved his car, similar to the getaway car in the murder, had been totaled the month before. And while witnesses described distinctive tattoos on the suspect's arm, LaBrada has none.

"It's a disgrace," attorney Christopher Kinum said. "This wasn't a rush to judgement. This was an absolute sprint to a completely horrendous result."

In March, the Essex County Prosecutor's Office dismissed the murder indictment, but the family says he paid an additional price, slammed with a three-year sentence stemming from the auto accident, even though he was a first-time offender whose blood-alcohol level was barely over the legal limit.

"There's people who have three times the alcohol level who have killed people and spend 30 days in jail," mother Lisset Stirpe said.

"It's all because of Newark, the accusation of him being a murderer," father Ronnie LaBrada said.

The family is now pursuing a violation of civil rights case against the Essex County Prosecutor's Office and Newark police.

"Nothing in the world will ever bring back the time we've gone through, the heartache," Stirpe said.

"Thank God I have a strong, big family that stood behind my back from the beginning," Peter LaBrada said.

The Essex County Prosecutor's Office will only say that there was insufficient evidence to pursue the case against LaBrada. They say no other suspects have been arrested.



Find us on Facebook® | Follow us on Twitter
More social networking
Contact NJ Bureau | Most popular stories | Street-level weather
Mobile Alerts | Report Typos | See News? Tell Eyewitness news