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October 14, 2023

Philadelphia man sentenced to 25 years for Maple Shade motel murder

Alexander Rivera, 27, strangled and stabbed Michelle Johnston, 36 in May 2022.

Investigations Crimes
Mape Shade killing Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Alexander Rivera a Philadelphia man, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the death of Michelle Johnston, 36 in May 2022.

A Philadelphia man was sentenced to 25 years in prison for killing a South Jersey woman inside a Maple Shade motel last spring on Friday.

Alexander Rivera, 27, was sentenced by the Hon. Gerard H. Breland, J.S.C. in Superior Court, Mount Holly, for the death of Michelle Johnston, 36, at the Bel-Air Motor LodgeRivera has to serve at least 85% of the term before becoming eligible for parole.

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Rivera had pled guilty to first-degree aggravated manslaughter in July, admitting to the crime.

The investigation was launched on May 11, 2022, after officers from the Maple Shade Police Department responded to a distress call from the Bel-Air Motor Lodge on Route 73, reporting an unresponsive female. 

Officers discovered Johnston lifeless in room 410. An autopsy by Burlington County Medical Examiner Dr. Ian Hood revealed Johnston had succumbed to strangulation and suffered multiple stab wounds.

"This was a fierce, unprovoked attack against an unsuspecting victim," Burlington County Prosecutor LaChia L. Bradshaw said. "We join those who loved Michelle Johnston, including her two children, in mourning her tragic loss and are grateful to everyone involved in this case who helped us bring justice for her death."

Rivera was apprehended at his residence in November by the U.S. Marshals Service New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force.

The prosecution was led by Assistant Prosecutor Bob Van Gilst, supervisor of the BCPO Major Crimes Unit. The collaborative investigation involved detectives from the Prosecutor's Office and the Maple Shade Police Department, the Philadelphia Police Department Homicide Unit, and the Burlington County Medical Examiner's Office. Noteworthy contributions were made by BCPO Detectives Shawn McDonough and Melyssa Alonso, along with MSPD Corporal Anthony Blinebury.

Johnston, who had roots in both Burlington and Camden counties, is remembered as a vibrant presence within her community.