General Crime

Rafael Tovar reputed gang member was sentenced to 29 years to life for stabbing death of Justice Afoa

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A reputed gang member was sentenced today to 29 years to life in state prison for the fatal stabbing of 17-year-old Newark High School student and football star Justice Afoa more than four years ago. Prosecutor Elgin Lowe said Rafael Tovar, a 34-year-old batch mixer from Newark, was one of two people who fatally stabbed Afoa near the intersection of Cedar Boulevard and Birch Street in Newark at about 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 15, 2010.

Afoa was a defensive lineman at Newark Memorial High School and made second team all-league in the Mission Valley Athletic League in the 2009 season. Tovar was convicted last July of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and committing the crimes to benefit a criminal street gang. Lowe said Daniel Howard, a 33-year-old trucker from Fremont, was the other person who fatally stabbed Afoa.

Howard was convicted on May 31, 2013, of first-degree murder and committing the crime to benefit a gang as well as two counts of premeditated attempted murder for trying to kill his girlfriend and her unborn child in a separate incident in Fremont on Nov. 25, 2012. Howard was sentenced to 70 years to life in state prison on June 27, 2013. Tovar’s sister Daniela Guzman, 21, of Newark, is also charged with murder in connection with Afoa’s death. Her trial is expected to start later this week with various pretrial motions, Lowe said.

According to evidence presented in the trial, the event that sparked the chain of events that led to Afoa’s death was when Afoa beat up Tovar at Tovar’s home at 12:28 a.m. on Sept. 12, 2010. Prosecutors said Tovar began the fight because he was upset that a friend of Afoa had broken up with Guzman, his sister. Newark police Officer Dan Anderson said in a probable cause statement that Tovar eventually admitted that he stabbed Afoa about five times on Dec. 15, 2010, and he estimated that Howard also stabbed Afoa about five times.

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