SAYREVILLE — The father of a 9-year-old boy found burned to death inside a car at Sayreville War Memorial High School Thursday night was charged with first-degree murder.

The charges against Manuel Rivera, 43, of Sayreville were upgraded Friday night by Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone following the tragic discovery Thursday night, which began with a domestic dispute at their home on Eisenhower Lane.

Second-degree charges of endangering the welfare of a child and desecration of human remains were added to an arson charge against Rivera.

Social media posts and identify the boy as Christian Rivera, a member of the Sayreville Bombers youth football team.  A parent also confirmed the boy's identity for New Jersey 101.5. The Sayreville High football team expressed its condolences in a post on the district.

A candlelight vigil took place Saturday night at the Junior Bombers football field to support the boy's family.

Grief counselors will be present Monday at the Woodrow Wilson Elementary School where the boy attended school. Schools in the district were closed for Good Friday.

ALSO READ: Dad arrested: dead boy pulled from car fire in Sayreville, NJ

Message from the Sayreville War Memorial High School football team
Message from the Sayreville War Memorial High School football team (Sayreville Public Schools)

Domestic dispute leads to murder

Ciccione has not disclosed a motive for the murder beyond it being part of a domestic dispute that also injured the boy's mother.

The boy was found inside the vehicle, which had been doused with gasoline and pronounced dead at the scene.

Manual Rivera was outside the vehicle with burn injuries and a self-inflicted wound. He was hired as a part-time cafeteria worker and driver, according to a BOE meeting agenda.

A friend in a Facebook page said the family is originally from Perth Amboy.

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