FREEHOLD – An Ocean County man has been convicted of fatally strangling his wife following an argument and leaving her body on the side of a road in Ocean Township about a year and a half ago, Monmouth County Prosecutor Raymond S. Santiago announced Friday.

A jury returned a guilty verdict against 53-year-old Jeremy B. Cruz of Forked River following a trial before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Jill G. O’Malley.

Just after 1 a.m. on Sunday, October 30, 2022, a woman who appeared to have sustained severe injuries was observed by a concerned motorist on Colonial Avenue, near the intersection with Asbury Avenue. Upon responding, Ocean Township Police Department officers located the victim, identified as 51-year-old Dawn C. Cruz, who was pronounced dead at the scene.     

At approximately the same time, Jeremy Cruz turned himself in to authorities at Berkeley Township Police Department headquarters in Ocean County. A joint investigation by members of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, Ocean Township Police Department, Asbury Park Police Department, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, and Berkeley Township Police Department led to a charge of first-degree Murder.

Cruz was indicted in January 2023. At trial, which began last week, the State disproved the defendant’s intoxication defense, leading to the conviction.

This case was prosecuted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutors Caitlin J. Sidley and Carey J. Huff. Cruz was represented by Adam Mitchell, Esq., and Deven Ferrara, Esq.  

“This conviction happened to coincide with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, and it’s difficult to conceive of a crime more senseless, or a victim more deserving of justice, than a person killed by their spouse over nothing more than a simple argument,” Prosecutor Santiago said. “We sincerely thank the jury for their service in this matter and hope that the verdict delivers some small measure of solace to Dawn’s friends, family, and loved ones.”

 Sentencing in the case has been scheduled for Wednesday, August 14 before Judge O’Malley, at which time Cruz will face a term of up to life in state prison.