Jose Carranza, 32, was convicted last month in state Superior Court in Newark of felony murder and armed robbery in the execution-style killings of Dashon Harvey, Iofemi Hightower and Terrance "T.J." Aeriel in August 2007.
The three victims and a fourth who survived were enrolled or about to enroll at Delaware State University.
The barbarity of the attacks - one victim was sexually assaulted, two were slashed and three were made to kneel in front of a wall before they were shot - kick-started anti-crime efforts in Newark such as a network of surveillance cameras in dangerous areas.
Carranza was an undocumented immigrant who was free on bail on separate charges when the killings occurred, a fact that led to changes in bail policies for illegal immigrants.
He was acquitted on three counts of murder and charges of attempted murder, sexual assault, conspiracy to commit robbery and conspiracy to commit murder. A co-defendant who had pleaded guilty in exchange for his testimony testified against Carranza during the trial.
Carranza was linked to the crime scene by fingerprints found on a beer bottle and was the first suspect identified by police. He surrendered several days after the killings to Newark Cory Booker.
Two defendants who were convicted at trial and another who pleaded guilty have been sentenced to multiple life sentences. Shahid Baskerville, who testified against Carranza, received a 30-year sentence. A sixth defendant who turned 15 on the day of the murders awaits trial.
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