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Man who killed Manalapan youngster dies in prison

By Mark Rosman
Staff Writer

Kevin Aquino, a Manalapan resident who pleaded guilty and was serving a long prison sentence in the 1994 slaying of his 6-year-old neighbor, Amanda Wengert, has died.

According to the New Jersey Department of Corrections, Aquino, 42, died on March 11 at the New Jersey State Prison, Trenton. A spokeswoman for the department said she could only confirm Aquino’s age, date of death and place of death.

Amanda’s slaying shocked Manalapan residents in early March 1994. Aquino, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Wengert family, pleaded guilty to entering the Wengert home while Amanda’s parents were out for the evening, taking her from her home and killing her.

According to an article in The New York Times that was published on March 8, 1994, Amanda was killed while her parents attended a party in their neighborhood. Aquino’s parents were also in attendance at that party.

Aquino was 19 when he murdered Amanda, who had been left home with two siblings and Aquino’s brother, ranging from 3 to 10 years old. There was no adult baby sitter in the home.

Amanda was asleep when her father checked on her at about 11 p.m., but was gone when her parents returned three hours later, authorities said. Her body was found in woods behind the house where Aquino lived with his parents.

Aquino, 21, pleaded guilty in July 1995 to first degree murder, felony murder and kidnapping in an agreement to avoid prosecution for the death penalty. On Sept. 23, 1995, a  judge sentenced Aquino to 55 years to life in prison, according to The New York Times.

Following Amanda’s murder, information was made public that revealed Aquino had been charged with trespassing in a Manalapan school in October 1993 (no one was assaulted) and that he had received a sentence of probation relating to aggravated sexual assaults he committed against children in 1991 when he would have been about 16 years old.