updated 8/8/2007 7:52:20 PM ET 2007-08-08T23:52:20

Police used the help of the lone survivor of the execution-style killings of three college students to get close to identifying at least one suspect, city officials said.

The spokeswoman, Lupe Todd, would not say when an announcement might come or how the possible break in the case was made. At a news conference later Wednesday, Mayor Cory A. Booker would not comment on whether police are close to arresting any suspects but said authorities had “encouraging leads.”

Newark has become accustomed to violence, but the killings Saturday night touched a nerve. Residents and law enforcement organizations have donated $150,000 to aid the victims’ families and to a reward fund, Booker said.

Four friends, ages 18 to 20, were shot while hanging out in a schoolyard.

Three of them — Terrance Aeriel, 18, Dashon Harvey, 20; and Iofemi Hightower, 20 — were forced to kneel against a wall and were shot at close range. The fourth, 19-year-old Natasha Aeriel, Terrance Aerial’s sister, survived a wound to her head and is hospitalized.

Authorities have said robbery appeared to be the motive.

Natasha Aeriel has been providing authorities with information about the shootings, Booker said.

“She’s gone through a tremendous tragedy,” Booker said. “We’re working with her to the extent that doctors will allow.”

Funeral to be held Saturday
All four victims were planning to attend Delaware State University this fall. Funerals for the three slain will be held Saturday.

Two cameras mounted on the side of the elementary school where the killings took place were found hanging by their wires, according to Willie Freeman, security director for the school district. A security guard did not report anything wrong with the cameras, which are at least 12 feet above the ground, after a routine check of the building Friday night, he said.

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