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GUILTY: Pair Convicted Of Murder In Passaic Drive-By Shooting After COVID-Delayed Case Resumes

Nelson Vargas, Christopher Reynoso,
Nelson Vargas, Christopher Reynoso, Photo Credit: MUGSHOTS

Two Passaic men were convicted of murder, among other charges, for the drive-by shooting death of a 23-year-old city resident after a previous attempt at prosecuting them was derailed by COVID.

Jurors in Paterson found Nelson Vargas, 29, and Christopher Reynoso, 22, guilty of attempted murder, as well, for the wounding of another man in the shooting. Both Vargas and Reynoso were also convicted of conspiracy and weapons offenses.

Hansel Castillo was gunned down outside a home on Federal Street on May 15, 2017.

Both he and Bryan Cabrera, 20, of Woodland Park, who was wounded in the shooting, were taken to St. Joseph’s University Medical Center, where Castillo was later pronounced dead.

Passaic police found several surveillance cameras that helped identify the vehicle and the shooters, prosecutors said.

An initial trial in Superior Court in Paterson was only four days into testimony when COVID forced a partial shutdown of the courts on March 17, 2020.

Although state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said trials could continue, jurors who now needed to stay home with their children or were concerned about catching COVID were allowed to leave the panel.

Courts were closed indefinitely and mistrials followed.

The case presented by Passaic County Senior Assistant Prosecutor Nubar C. Kasaryan against Vargas and Reynoso resumed with jury selection two months ago.

Jurors on Monday returned first-degree verdicts of murder, attempted murder and conspiracy, along with convictions for weapons offenses.

Superior Court Judge Justine A. Niccollai will schedule sentencing at a later date, Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes said.

Vargas and Reynoso will remain in the Bergen County Jail until they are sentenced and assigned to a state prison.

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