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TOMS RIVER — A Lakewood man has pleaded guilty to Aggravated Manslaughter for shooting a young man over the summer in 2016, Bradley Billhimer, Ocean County Prosecutor, said in a statement. 

On June 13th, 2016, officers from the Lakewood Township Police Department responded to the area of Martin Luther King Drive and discovered the body of Johntel Thomas, 23, on the sidewalk unconscious and with a gunshot wound in the left rib area. 

The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office Major Crime Unit was able to locate and interview witnesses of the shooting, which led to the discovery of video footage depicting Merrill Spencer, 38, a township resident shot the young man on the sidewalk. 

The Prosecutor's detectives and Lakewood Township Police officers worked quickly with the new information and apprehended Spencer the same night. 

"These and other investigative measures quickly developed information leading detectives to Merrill Spencer and a Lakewood residence he was known to[sic] frequent," the Ocean County Prosecutor's office said back in 2016. 

Spencer was arrested initially on charges of murder, unlawful possession of a weapon, and possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose.

Spencer has a history with the law, including four years in prison in 2004, on a third-degree cocaine charge out of Wildwood.

Spencer will likely be recommended to get 30 years behind when his sentencing roles around on January 31st, 2020, according to a statement by Billhimer.

With previous reporting by Sergio Bichao. 

Mark Anthony is a reporter with Townsquare Media: Click here to follow him on Facebook. 

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