Man sentenced to 25 years for shooting driver after fender bender

EAST ORANGE, NJ — Jerome Bearfield, 28, of Newark, was sentenced to 25 years in New Jersey State Prison for killing 51-year-old Basil Howard, of East Orange, following a fender bender, according to an Oct. 11 press release from the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.

The sentence was imposed by Ronald D. Wigler, the presiding Essex County Criminal Court judge. Under the No Early Release Act, Bearfield must serve 85 percent of the sentence before he is eligible for parole.

“This was a fender bender that resulted in the fatal shooting of an innocent and unsuspecting victim. It’s hard to imagine a more senseless and unprovoked act of violence,’’ said Assistant Prosecutor Adam Wells, who represented the state. “Hopefully this sentencing can bring some closure to Mr. Howard’s family and friends.’’

On May 5, 2018, Bearfield was hit from behind in East Orange while driving home from a birthday party for his mother. Bearfield got out of his vehicle with a .38 revolver and fatally shot Howard, the driver of the other vehicle.

On Aug. 20, Bearfield entered a guilty plea to aggravated manslaughter and unlawful possession of a weapon. Bearfield has three prior felony convictions.