SAYREVILLE, NJ—Eunice Dwumfour, an up-and-coming public servant, was killed in a hail of gunfire near her home in the Parlin section of the borough at approximately 7:20pm on February 1.
New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein broke the story just hours after Dwumfour died of gunshot wounds inside her vehicle at the intersection of Samuel Circle and Check Avenue.
Dwumfour, a resident of the cluster of developments known as “La Mer,” was reportedly getting into her vehicle when the attack occurred. Over a dozen shots were fired, leaving several bullet holes in her driver’s side window.
The crime is the first murder reported this year in Middlesex County. Although the killer’s motive remains unclear, the fatal incident is sure to have consequences on the borough’s complex politics, and community members are already lamenting the loss of an inspirational local leader who made her mark on Sayreville.
“She was an amazing friend, a woman who loved God… 30 years young and full of life,” wrote Nelia Rodriguez, who served on the borough’s Human Relations Commission (HRC) with Dwumfour.
“I just saw her this morning at the store. I remember saying to her I see you at the HRC meeting tomorrow not knowing tonight was going to be the end of her life.”
Dwumfour joined the Council as a political newcomer in January 2022, after teaming up with fellow Republican Christian Onuoha, the son of immigrants from Nigeria, to pull off an upset in the November 2021 elections.
Although they were in different parties, she also had a warm relationship—and a political alliance—with the borough’s Democrat Mayor, Victoria Kilpatrick.
“Eunice was a dedicated member of our Borough Council who was truly committed to serve all of our residents,” said Kilpatrick. “Beyond her dedication to our community, I can share that she was a woman of deep faith and worked hard to integrate her strong Christian beliefs into her daily life as a person and a community leader.”
“On a personal note, I can’t adequately express my feeling of sorrow at the loss of a friend.”
Dwumfour, who leaves behind her parents and a young daughter, was newly-married and appeared to have a bright future ahead of herself, having just begun her second year as an elected official in Sayreville.
In a phone interview with New Brunswick Today, the Mayor said her colleague and friend always had “pure intentions” and was looking forward to pursuing an advanced degree.
“She wanted to be a lawyer,” said Kilpatrick, who had recently been asked to write a recommendation letter for Dwumfour. “Everything she did, she did with just 100% heart.”
A graduate of Newark Public Schools and William Paterson University, Dwumfour also served as a pastor at the Champions Royal Assembly, an African Church with a presence in Newark.
Her most recent financial disclosure statement listed her source of income as Blue Wave Auto Spa, a car wash in Hazlet. According to her LinkedIn profile, she also held the titles of Professional Scrum Master and Business Analyst with Fire Congress International, and Director of Churches with “Champions Royal Assembly [North America].”
Dwumfour’s previous employers listed on the profile include Marriott and Telesis HQ.
About one month before she was killed, Dwumfour posted on the page: “Hi everyone – I am looking for a new role and would appreciate your support. Thank you in advance for any connections, advice, or opportunities you can offer. #OpenToWork”
A witness told New Brunswick Today that the shooting caused Dwumfour’s vehicle, a white Nissan sport utility vehicle, to collide into at least one parked car.
Because the shooting occurred inside the Camelot section of the neighborhood during the early evening, many residents had a bird’s eye view of the chaos that erupted, peering through their windows, looking out from their balconies, and quickly calling authorities.
Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone and Sayreville’s new Police Chief, Daniel Plumwacker, announced the homicide case, without naming the victim, by way of a press release first issued just minutes after the New Jersey Globe article was published.
After receiving multiple 911 calls, Sayreville Police responded to the scene, and found Dwumfour slumped over, wearing a winter coat, in the driver’s seat of her crashed car.
The doors to the vehicle were locked, so officers smashed one of the rear windows to break into the vehicle, according to video provided to New Brunswick Today by a resident.
“Sayreville Police Department responded to the scene, upon their arrival, officers located one female in her vehicle who had sustained multiple gunshot wounds,” reads the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office (MCPO) release. “The female had succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced on scene.”
Other photos and videos of the crime scene showed investigators working into the night, marking the spots where evidence was found with over a dozen evidence markers in the vicinity of Check Avenue.
Meanwhile, a sheet was used to cover the inside of the vehicle and shield the public from viewing of the traumatic scene.
A tow truck from George Logan Towing came to load the SUV onto its flatbed and left the neighborhood at approximately 12:40am.
The past two years had been eventful and dramatic when it came to Sayreville’s government and politics, including the election that first propelled Dwumfour and Onuoho into office.
The African-American duo ran with the Republican Party and defeated a pair of established Democrat incumbents, re-shaping the Council, and serving as the borough’s only non-white elected officials for the past thirteen months.
Sayreville is one of the few towns in Central Jersey with competitive local elections and Dwumfour represented a new generation of leadership that frequently transcended the traditional two-party structure.
It all happened fast, with Onuoha dropping an announced bid for US Congress to take his chances in the local election. The gamble paid off, and the two upstarts were elected in the borough’s first Republican sweep since 2009, according to Centraljersey.com.
In a matter of months, both Onuoha and Dwumfour found themselves in office, and sometimes at odds with their own party. Likewise, other unexpected, bipartisan alliances took shape on the Council, with both parties sometimes finding themselves fractured.
Sayreville politics experienced another major shake-up this past September, when news broke that the local Democratic Party’s Chairman, Thomas Pollando, was arrested and charged with accepting bribes from a politically-connected family facing a criminal investigation surrounding their strip club.
The corruption case rocked Middlesex County, where Pollando had pull with top officials like Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, who represents Sayreville.
Pollando also held powerful roles as a board member with the Sayreville Economic Redevelopment Agency (SERA) and the county’s Planning Board.
Two months after the scandal became the talk of the town, Republicans re-gained the majority on the Council, with one member from each of the two major Republican Party factions prevailing in the November election.
When the new Council convened, Onuoha was narrowly elected Council President in a bipartisan vote, with Mayor Kilpatrick breaking a tie in his favor on January 3.
“Establishment Democrats are influenced by Tom Pollando, [Republican] Mary Novak and [Democrat] Vincent Conti, and I think our current [Republican] leader Karen Biebert and Donna Roberts consistently work together with them,” Onuoha told TapInto Raritan Bay.
Onuoha also shared his prediction that most of the Council’s votes this year would be close, with his bipartisan group of “moderate independents” matching up evenly with the old guard. Mayor Kilpatrick can cast a tiebreaking vote whenever the Council is deadlocked.
But the loss of Dwumfour will again change that balance of power, and it’s unclear how her absence could impact upcoming votes on controversial items.
Because of New Jersey’s convoluted law for filling vacant offices in towns with a partisan forms of government, voters won’t get a say in who takes office until November.
However, an interim Council member could be appointed through a semi-public process involving both the remaining members of the Borough Council and the Republican Party’s committee members.
The morning after the tragedy, an updated MCPO release was shared confirming Dwumfour was the victim, along with a message declaring that investigators will “not be making any comments or statements regarding this incident due to this being an active and ongoing investigation.”
“Another press release will be issued once more information has been obtained,” reads the message sent at 10:08am, and it remains the last update from the MCPO.
Later in the day, at an unrelated press conference, an official confirmed the the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is looking into the case.
“The FBI is aware of that incident and we are working with all of our partners in order to find out more about that incident,” said Special Agent in Charge of the Newark Field Office, James E. Dennehy, according to the Home News Tribune.
Congressman Frank Pallone, US Senator Cory Booker, and Middlesex County Commissioner Director Ronald Rios each expressed their dismay at the murder.
Governor Phil Murphy also added his voice to the chorus of condolences: “I am stunned by the news of Sayreville Councilwoman Eunice Dwumfour’s murder last evening in an act of gun violence,” said Murphy.
“Her career of public service was just beginning, and by all accounts she had already built a reputation as a committed member of the Borough Council who took her responsibility with the utmost diligence and seriousness.”
It is not the first time that an elected official has been murdered in Middlesex County. In April 1988, Piscataway Councilman Jeffrey Suskin was murdered and authorities still have not solved the case.
Authorities have released no information about who they suspect is responsible for the murder, and have asked asked anyone with information or surveillance footage of the area is asked to call Detective Rebecca Morales of the Sayreville Police Department at 732-727-4444 or Detective Michelle Coppola of the MCPO 732-745-3477.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.