NJ councilwoman found shot to death outside of her home
Thu, Feb 2, 2023 7:15 PM
By MARYCLAIRE DALE and TED SHAFFREY, Associated Press
SAYREVILLE, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey borough councilwoman was found shot to death in an SUV outside of her home in a quiet townhouse complex, where police Thursday searched the area without making an arrest.
Sayreville Councilwoman Eunice Dwumfour, 30, was found around 7:20 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Middlesex County prosecutor’s office. She had been shot multiple times and died at the scene.
Dwumfour, a Republican, was elected to her first three-year term in 2021, when she ousted a Democratic incumbent. Colleagues recalled her as a soft-spoken devout Christian who could maintain her composure in contentious situations.
“She was a 30-year-old woman. To have this happen in such a tragic way, I mean, our hearts are just broken and everybody wants an answer,” said Karen Bailey Bebert, the local GOP chairwoman who served as her campaign manager. “So we’re waiting with bated breath.”
Authorities have not said whether they believe the motive for the killing might be personal, political or a random act.
In a 2021 campaign interview, Dwumfour described herself as a proud graduate of Newark public schools who earned a degree in women’s studies at William Patterson University while working part-time as an EMT.
She said she moved to Parlin, a section of Sayreville, after graduating “because of the tremendous public safety work the community does.” That interest fueled her run for council, where she served as a liaison to the police department now helping to investigate her death.
“She just wanted to make a better community for all our children,” said Bebert.
Dwumfour, who had a school-age child, announced at a fall council meeting that she had recently gotten married, Bebert said. She was active in her church in Newark, and several people affiliated with the church had ties to the same Sayreville address.
She married a fellow member of Champions Royal Assembly in ceremonies celebrated in August in New Jersey and in November in Abuja, Nigeria, where the church is based, according to announcements and photos the couple posted on social media.
Dwumfour worked in information technology, according to her LinkedIn page, where she posted last month that she was looking for a new opportunity. Her resume also said that she worked for six years with a religious nonprofit group called the Fire Congress Fellowship Inc., which was also based at her Sayreville address.
Both she and Christian Onuoha, who was elected to the borough council with Dwumfour in 2021 and became its president last month, are listed as officers of the group. Onuoha, who also shares the address, declined to discuss Dwumfour in a phone call with The Associated Press on Thursday.
A next-door neighbor, Chyann Brown, said she was arriving home Wednesday evening just as police were “flying in the complex.”
“When I came to park my car, there were shell cases everywhere. ... I (saw) the car was still rolling down the street,” she said of Dwumfour's vehicle.
Brown said they had spoken over the past year, but she did not realize Dwumfour was involved in local politics.
“She’s a very nice woman. She’s always well-dressed,” she said. “I can’t believe she would be involved in such a tragic incident.”
Sayreville police searched the wooded area between the complex and the Garden State Parkway, which abutted the neighborhood. There was at least one police dog combing the area, and officials also used a backhoe to lift heavy grates off drainage areas to search as well.
Several high-ranking state leaders, including Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, issued statements expressing their grief over her death. John Wisniewski, a former Democratic state Assembly member from Sayreville, had spoken to her at a few council meetings.
“Almost always her comments were about God, divine providence. She was a woman of faith,” Wisniewski said.
Bebert described Dwumfour as an outgoing person who “always had that beautiful smile on her face that you see in her picture.”
Sayreville, a borough of roughly 45,000 people, is about 30 miles (about 48.2 kilometers) south of Manhattan. At the scene Thursday, another car in the parking lot had damage apparently sustained when Dwumfour’s car struck it.
Bebert, who described Sayreville as a peaceful community, hopes to organize a vigil to celebrate what she called “a life cut too short by such a heinous criminal act.”
“She was so young,” she said. “It's just rippling through the town.”
___ Dale reported from Philadelphia. Associated Press photographer Seth Wenig in Sayreville, Bruce Shipkowski in Toms River, Mike Catalini in Trenton and news researcher Randy Herschaft in New York contributed to this report.