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Highland Park Man Convicted in Ugha Ugha Social Club Murder

DATE:  4/24/2012
Edelbarto Padilla

Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray announced today that an Essex County jury convicted Edelbarto Padilla, 35, of Highland Park for the murder of Carlos Manuel Freitas, 27, of Newark following a six-day trial before the Honorable Peter J. Vazquez, J.S.C. In addition to murder, Padilla was also found guilty of two weapons offenses.

Back on Oct. 24, 2002, the two men were at the Ugha Ugha Social Club, located a 43 Joseph Street in Newark, when they got into an altercation. The precise cause of the disagreement was never determined. The club is known as a place where waiters and others in the restaurant business gather after hours. Shortly after 7 a.m. Padilla pulled out a gun and shot the victim three times, killing him. The jury deliberated for one day before returning a guilty verdict.

“Despite the fact that this murder occurred in 2002, this jury sifted through the evidence and finally gave Carlos Freitas’s family members the peace they so well deserved,’’ said Assistant Prosecutor Brian Pollock, who tried the case with Assistant Prosecutor Cheryl Cucinello.

Fourteen days after the crime occurred, Padilla was charged with the murder and warrants were issued for his arrest but he was on the run for nine years. He was eventually arrested in New Brunswick.

In March the case was tried before another jury but the jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Following the verdict today, Judge Vazquez immediately revoked the defendant’s $500,000 bail. When Padilla is sentenced on June 12, he faces life in prison.

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