FREEHOLD, NJ – An Ocean County man is the fourth person charged in a Thanksgiving Eve shooting death on an Asbury Park street last year, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

Vernon L. Sanders, 33, of Kitty Court in Brick Township, is charged with first degree Conspiracy, first degree Murder, second degree Possession of a Firearm for an Unlawful Purpose, second degree Unlawful Possession of a Weapon and second degree Certain Persons Not to Possess Weapons. Sanders joins Steven Taylor, 36; Michael Taylor, 33; and Avery Hopes, 23; all of Asbury Park, who are also charged in the shooting death of Denzel Morgan-Hicks, 27, of Barnegat.

The charges stem from a November 22, 2017 shooting, in the area of 150 Prospect Ave. in Asbury Park.  The Asbury Park Police Department responded to the area after hearing the sound of gunshots at approximately 10:32 p.m. Officers quickly arrived to find Morgan-Hicks in the driver’s side front seat of a 2017 Ford Expedition, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.  Asbury Park Fire Department EMS and MONOC paramedics also responded, but the victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

A joint investigation by detectives from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and Asbury Park Police Department determined Avery Hopes, as well as brothers Steven and Michael Taylor, were identified as three of the individuals responsible for Morgan-Hicks’ death. Sanders was identified as part of the investigation. He was arrested and charged Wednesday.

The investigation is being led by Detective Patrick Petruzziello of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and Detective Joe Leon of the Asbury Park Police Department.  Anyone with additional information about this shooting is urged to call Detective Petruzziello at 1-800-533-7443 or Detective Leon at 732-774-1300.

If convicted of Murder, Sanders faces a minimum sentence of 30 years in a New Jersey state prison without parole, and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment; if convicted of Conspiracy, they face a sentence of up to 20 years in state prison.  A conviction for either Murder or Conspiracy is subject to the provisions of the “No Early Release Act” requiring him to serve 85 percent of any sentence imposed in excess of 30 years before becoming eligible for release on parole. He would also be under parole supervision for five years if released from state prison.

If convicted of Possession of a Firearm for an Unlawful Purpose, Sanders faces a maximum potential sentence in a state prison of 10 years, and pursuant to the “Graves Act” there is a mandatory period of parole ineligibility of one half of the custodial sentence imposed, or 42 months, whichever is greater.

If convicted of Unlawful Possession of a Weapon, Sanders faces a state prison term of 10 years if convicted of that offense.  If convicted of Certain Persons Not to Possess Weapons, Sanders faces up to 10 years in state prison with a five-year mandatory period of parole ineligibility

The case is assigned to Assistant Prosecutor Matthew Bogner, of the Office’s Major Crimes Bureau, Asbury Park Satellite Office.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.