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Published on July 18th, 2013 | by Daniel Perlman


Cedar Grove teenager killed was involved in road rage incident

A war of words and a case of mistaken identity led a 20-year-old Totowa resident to stab a Cedar Grove teenager to death on a street in Little Falls early this morning, prosecutors said.

Jonathan Lafontaine has been charged with murder and weapons offenses in the killing of 18-year-old Brian Topoleski, who graduated from Cedar Grove High School last month, according to Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes.

The killing marks Little Falls first murder in nearly three decades.

“It’s a terrible and unfortunate act of violence,” said Little Falls Mayor Darlene Post.

Lafontaine was in a Jeep with a friend and two young girls returning from a meal at Applebee’s when they came across a Mercedes that Topoleski was riding in with five other people, Valdes said. Both the suspect and victim were passengers in their respective cars.

Lafontaine’s group thought they recognized Topoleski’s, and tried to greet them. The groups did not know one another and the case of mistaken identity quickly escalated into an argument, according to assistant prosecutor Michael DeMarco.

Topoleski’s group followed Lafontaine’s group back to Jacobus Street, where the 20-year-old and his friends planned to meet 18-year-old Rilind Hoti and several other people, Valdes said.

When both cars arrived the argument continued, DeMarco said. Lafontaine went into the Hoti home and grabbed two knives, before punching Topoleski in the face as he was returning to the Mercedes.

Then, Valdes said, he plunged a steak knife into Topoleski’s chest. The teen died at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Paterson an hour later.

Lafontaine, who was sentenced to three years probation after he was charged with aggravated assault last year, hid in the backyard of the Hoti home for two hours before he was arrested by Passaic County Sheriff’s officers.

Valdes did not immediately offer information in court appearances or bail, but said the “senseless tragedy” could have been avoided.

“There’s several points where actions could have been taken but were not,” she said.” This was an exchange … That went terribly wrong.”

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Source: “Cedar Grove teenager killed was involved in road rage incident,” July 18, 2013.

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