FREEHOLDAustin Meli, a Wall Township resident, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the homicide of his six-week-old baby girl, Monmouth County Prosecutor Raymond S. Santiago announced on Monday.

Austin Meli, 26, was sentenced on Friday, December 16, 2022, before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Joseph W. Oxley. The sentence is subject to the No Early Release Act (NERA), which requires Meli to serve 85% of it prior to being eligible for parole. This sentence will run consecutive to a sentence that Meli is already serving.

Meli pled guilty to first-degree Aggravated Manslaughter on February 10, 2022.

On March 9, 2019, Wall Township Police Department responded to a residence in their jurisdiction regarding an unresponsive six-week-old infant. At the time, the investigation determined that the infant had been in the immediate care of Meli, her father, at the time she was found to be unresponsive. The child was subsequently pronounced deceased at Ocean Medical Center in Brick. Subsequent investigation revealed that Meli had smothered the child in order to stop her from crying, resulting in the baby’s death by asphyxiation. The investigation was led by the Wall Township Police Department and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.

Meli is currently serving a 10-year New Jersey State Prison sentence for second-degree Aggravated Assault, two counts of second-degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child, and fourth-degree Tampering with Physical Evidence for crimes committed upon another of his children. Meli’s sentence for those charges is also subject to an 85% period of parole ineligibility pursuant to the No Early Release Act.

“The defendant’s depraved actions caused this horrific tragedy and left other family members to mourn an immeasurable loss,” Monmouth County Prosecutor Raymond S. Santiago stated. “While it is impossible to make this family whole, this plea deal and the subsequent sentence provides justice and closure for the victim’s family for such an unspeakable and heinous act.”

The case was prosecuted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutors Ellyn Rajfer and Margaret Koping.

Meli is represented by Allison Friedman, Esq., of Freehold.