BRIDGETON — A Vineland resident no longer faces a murder charge in connection with the 2008 death of an elderly man who died of a heart attack after being robbed and carjacked at gunpoint.

Authorities dropped the murder charge against 26-year-old David Martinez during proceedings in Superior Court on Friday.

David Martinez instead pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit theft. Martinez has been in the Cumberland County jail in Bridgeton for the past four-and-a-half years and will likely be released for time served when he is sentenced on March 22, Superior Court officials said.

Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae and David Martinez’s attorney, Timothy Reilly, could not be reached for comment.

David Martinez and two other Vineland residents — 31-year-old Luis Martinez, 31, and Andy Santos, 26 — were all indicted in January 2009 on murder and other charges relating to the death of Milton Belote.

Authorities said Belote, of Vineland, went to Vineland Kosher Poultry on April 4, 2008, to cash paychecks for employees without bank accounts. The check-cashing service was a payday custom for Belote, who used to work for the company, they said.

David Martinez, Luis Martinez and Santos were all allegedly lying in wait for Belote when he arrived at the Mill Road plant shortly after noon, authorities said. The three men allegedly brandished a weapon at Belote and then took his cash and pickup truck, they said.

Authorities charged that the robbery and carjacking caused Belote to suffer a heart attack and go into full cardiac arrest. Belote was pronounced dead at South Jersey Healthcare Regional Medical Center in Vineland less than an hour after the incident, they said.

The three defendants were indicted in January 2009 on charges of murder, robbery, carjacking and weapons offenses. They each faced up to 30 years in state prison.

No information was available regarding the status of the charges against Luis Martinez and Santos.

Contact Thomas Barlas:

609-226-9197