A New Jersey county councilwoman was found shot to death in a van in front of her home in a quiet townhouse complex, where police searched the area Thursday 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 she died at the scene.
Dwumfour, a Republican, was elected to her first three-year term in 2021, when she ousted a Democratic incumbent. Her colleagues remembered her as a soft-spoken devout Christian who could maintain her composure in contentious situations.
“It was a 30-year-old woman. For this to happen in such a tragic way, I mean, our hearts are broken and everyone 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 could be personal, political or a random act.
In a 2021 campaign interview, Dwumfour described herself as a proud Newark public schools graduate who earned a women’s studies degree from William Patterson University while working part-time as an EMT.
He said he moved to Parlin, a section of Sayreville, after graduation “because of the tremendous public safety work that the community does.” That interest prompted his candidacy for the council, where he served as liaison with the police department that is now helping investigate his death.
“She just wanted to make a better community for all of our kids,” Bebert said.
Dwumfour, who had a school-age son, announced at a fall council meeting that he had recently 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 member of the Royal Assembly of Champions in ceremonies held 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 his LinkedIn page, where he posted last month that he was looking for a new opportunity. His resume also said he worked for six years with a nonprofit religious group called Fire Congress Fellowship Inc., which also had his headquarters at his Sayreville address.
Both she and Christian Onuoha, who was elected to the city council with Dwumfour in 2021 and became its president last month, are listed as officials 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 would arrive at her house Wednesday night just as police were “flying into the complex.”
“When I came to park my car, there were bullet casings everywhere. … I (saw) that the car was still rolling down the street,” he said of Dwumfour’s vehicle.
Brown said they had talked for the past year, but he was unaware Dwumfour was involved in local politics.
“She is a very nice woman. She is always well dressed,” she said. “I cannot believe that she is involved in such a tragic incident.”
Sayreville police searched the wooded area between the complex and the Garden State Parkway, which adjoins the neighborhood. There was at least one police dog combing the area, and officials also used a backhoe to lift heavy grates out of the drainage areas to search as well.
Several high-ranking state leaders, including Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, issued statements expressing grief over his death. John Wisniewski, a former Democratic State Assemblyman from Sayreville, had spoken with her at a few council meetings.
“His comments were almost always 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 photo.”
Sayreville, a borough of about 45,000 people, is about 30 miles (about 48.2 kilometers) south of Manhattan. At the scene on Thursday, another car in the parking lot was apparently damaged when Dwumfour’s car struck it.
Bebert, who described Sayreville as a peaceful community, hopes to hold a vigil to celebrate what he called “a life cut short by such a heinous criminal act.”
“I was so young,” he said. “He’s just waving through the city.”