Ware Man Sentenced in Hardwick Slaying

February 20, 2019

Feb. 20, 2019

For Immediate Release

Contact: Paul Jarvey 508-368-7241

WORCESTER — A Ware man was sentenced to 25-30 years in state prison today after pleading guilty in Worcester Superior Court to the slaying of an 84-year-old man as he slept in his Hardwick home, according to Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.

Jason Lopez, 27, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the stabbing death of Joseph Cernauskas in the early hours of Sept. 6, 2011.

He also pleaded guilty to arson, home invasion, armed burglary, larceny from a building and two counts of larceny of a motor vehicle. Judge Daniel M. Wrenn ordered him to serve 10 years of probation in addition to his prison sentence.

His accomplice, Jonathan Hart, 28, of Barre, pleaded guilty to the identical charges last month and was given the same sentence.

After killing Mr. Cernauskas, the two men removed the body and set fire to the home, according to Assistant District Attorney Christopher P. Hodgens.

The investigation began when Hardwick firefighters did not find Mr. Cernauskas at home. His body was found two weeks later in a field in Barre. Mr. Hart and Mr. Lopez stole two vehichles, and the defendants were eventually apprehended in Florida.

During the investigation, Mr. Hart told detectives that Mr. Cernauskas had molested him for several years when he was a young boy.

The slaying was investigated by the State Police Detectives assigned to the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office, local police in Hardwick, Ware and Tarpon Springs, Fla., and other police units.