Plainfield man sentenced to 40 years for killing his mother

ELIZABETH, NJ — A Plainfield man has been sentenced to 40 years in state prison for beating his mother to death in the home they shared a little more than three years ago, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced.

John Quackenbush, 47, was sentenced Friday morning by state Superior Court Judge Regina Caulfield. In February a Union County jury had convicted him of first-degree murder, two related second-degree weapons offenses, and third-degree theft following a three-week trial.

Plainfield Police Division officers responding to a request for a welfare check found the body of 69-year-old Gail Vandewalle under a blanket in her Watson Avenue home on Feb. 24, 2013, several days after her last known contact with friends or family members, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutors Scott Peterson and Derek Nececkas, who prosecuted the case.

An autopsy by the Union County Medical Examiner’s Office revealed that Vandewalle died of blunt-force trauma to the head caused by a 12-pound dumbbell. A fast-moving investigation by the Union County Homicide Task Force and the Plainfield Police Division resulted in Quackenbush being identified as a suspect, and he was arrested on Feb. 25, 2013 at a motel in Green Brook.

Quackenbush was held on $1 million bail leading up to his trial.