Lee Anthony Evans, 58, was acquitted by jurors who deliberated for more than 12 hours, The (Newark) Star-Ledger reported. Deliberations began Friday.
Evans' cousin, Philander Hampton, who pleaded guilty to felony murder and testified for the prosecution, said the boys were lured to an empty house in Newark and locked in a closet. Hampton said Evans then doused the house with gasoline and set it on fire.
Hampton said Evans was angry because the teens, Michael McDowell, Randy Johnson and Alvin Turner, all 16, and Melvin Pittman and Ernest Taylor, both 17, had stolen marijuana from him. Their bodies were never found.
Relatives testified the last time they saw the boys they were in the back of Evans' pickup truck. He sometimes hired them to do odd jobs.