Two New Jersey brothers have been charged with fatally shooting a grandmother who was celebrating her 63rd birthday on her front porch in Newark last year and was killed as she rushed to protect her grandchildren from gunfire.
Debra Derrick, 63, was killed more than a year ago on March 11, 2021, according to a statement from the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.
Two brothers have been charged with the murder.
Derrick was fatally shot at around 8 p.m. on the night of her birthday, while standing on her front porch in Newark, where she was releasing balloons to honor of the twin sister who died seven years earlier.
Derrick worked as a certified nursing assistant at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.
Investigators identified the alleged shooters as Jonathan Ritchie, 21, and his brother Josiah Ritchie, 19.
The brothers, both Newark residents, are charged with weapons offenses related to Derrick’s death, according to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.
Derrick, a former nursing assistant at Newark Beth Israel Medical center, was on her front porch releasing balloons to celebrate her birthday and the birthday of her late twin sister when she was shot, officials said.
“The two shooters were identified as brothers living with their mother and stepfather,” said Newark Public Safety Director Brian A. O’Hara.
“She was caught in the crossfire. She was making sure that everybody was safe. She was pushing the two granddaughters in the door,” Ramona Derrick.
“She was a very pleasant person,” Ramona Derrick said. “She always welcomed people to a meal. Always had an open heart.”
Prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Katherine Carter confirmed Debra Derrick was not the intended target of the attack, but she declined to comment on the possible motive for the shooting.
Ramona Derrick, another one of victim’s sisters, told the outlet last year that the grandmother was killed as she rushed to shield her grandchildren from the gunfire.
The two brothers, who lived with their mother and stepfather, are originally from Guyana and had previously lived in Atlanta, prosecutors said.
Both are currently held at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark.