FREEHOLD – A pair of Virginia residents have been arrested and charged with conspiring to orchestrate an armed home invasion and robbery in Marlboro Township earlier this fall, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Raymond S. Santiago announced Thursday.
Acori Knox, 21, of Hampton, Virginia and Lauren McNeil, 24, of Newport News, Virginia are each charged with second-degree Conspiracy to Commit Burglary, second-degree Conspiracy to Commit Robbery, and second-degree Attempted Burglary. Knox is additionally charged with first-degree Attempted Robbery, second-degree Eluding Police, and three second-degree weapons offenses.
A joint investigation by the MCPO Major Crimes Bureau and the Marlboro Township Police Department revealed the following facts:
Shortly after 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, September 24, members of the Marlboro Township Police Department responded to a residential neighborhood on a report of an attempted home invasion. At that location they learned that an adult male suspect later identified as Knox had just left the scene in a dark-colored Cadillac sedan with Virginia license plates, having minutes earlier attempted to enter the home through a rear patio door while brandishing an AK-47-style rifle. A Patrolman quickly located the vehicle and initiated a pursuit, but soon thereafter broke it off due to excessive speed and the associated risk to public safety.
McNeil was one of several individuals present as guests at the home at the time, and it was revealed that she and her boyfriend, Knox, had planned the home invasion via text messages ahead of time, seeking to restrain the homeowner while robbing him of cash and personal effects.
Both defendants were taken into custody without incident yesterday in Newport News, Virginia, and they now await extradition proceedings and a first appearance and detention hearing to take place in Monmouth County Superior Court. The Prosecutor’s Office would like to thank the Hampton, Virginia Police Division, the Newport News, Virginia Police Department, and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Offices in both cities for their assistance in the investigation.
“This case has been marked by consistently stellar investigative work throughout, from a swift initial response that very well may have prevented a far worse outcome all the way through the identification of these suspects and their arrests yesterday,” Acting Prosecutor Santiago said. “It’s also a prime example of how powerfully effective collaborative efforts involving multiple agencies can be, all in an overarching effort to ensure that public safety is maintained throughout our communities.”
“The Marlboro Township Police Detective Bureau worked hand in hand with the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Newport News Police Department to close this investigation rapidly,” Marlboro Township Police Chief Peter J. Pezzullo added. “I am extremely proud of the dedication and diligence of Detective (Edward) Ungrady and all the Marlboro Officers involved in this case. This joint operation exemplifies how multiple law-enforcement agencies can work as one and accomplish great results.”
This case has been assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Caitlin J. Sidley of the MCPO Major Crimes Bureau. Information on legal representation for Knox and McNeil was not immediately available. Convictions on first-degree criminal charges are commonly punishable by terms of up to 20 years in state prison, while second-degree convictions can result in terms of up to 10 years.
Anyone with information about this matter is still being asked to contact MCPO Detective Aaron Shaw at 800-533-7443 or Marlboro Township Police Department Detective Edward Ungrady at 732-536-0100.
Anyone who feels the need to remain anonymous but has information about this or any crime can submit a tip to Monmouth County Crime Stoppers by calling their confidential telephone tip-line at 1-800-671-4400; by downloading and using the free P3 Tips mobile app (available on iOS and Android – https://www.p3tips.com/1182), by calling 800-671-4400, or by going to the website at www.monmouthcountycrimestoppers.com.
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.