Police charge male suspect with murder of Cranford woman

Police search a home in Union during the homocide investigation of a 43-year-old Cranford woman.
Police search a home in Union during the homocide investigation of a 43-year-old Cranford woman.

 

Matthew Ballister III
Matthew Ballister III

UNION – The Union County Sheriff’s Department Canine Unit combed the wooded area at the end of Walton Avenue late this morning, searching for the body of Cranford resident April Wyckoff, who authorities say was murdered by her Mercer Avenue boyfriend.

The Union County Prosecutor’s Office said Matthew Ballister, 43, has been charged with Wyckoff’s murder and is being held in the county jail on $2 million bail. His mother, Eleanor Schofield, of Mountainside, was also charged with fourth-degree hindering apprehension for allegedly interfering with the investigation by helping to conceal evidence of the crime.

Authorities do know the homicide took place at Ballister’s home based on evidence obtained during the course of an ongoing intensive investigation. The only thing they do not have is the body of the woman, a 43-year-old who lived on Berkley Place in Cranford and was the mother of a 16-year-old daughter and a 23-year-old son.

Local police became aware late yesterday afternoon that something was not right at the pristine white bi-level located on a quiet tree-lined street just a half block from the Five-Points area.

According to a source close to the investigation, Union Police responded to a call Wednesday afternoon from a neighbor who felt they should report seeing a woman’s body clad only in a bra and panties on Ballister’s driveway Tuesday night.

After going to the home, Union police soon discovered that Wyckoff’s car had been found in Newark, abandoned and still running.

According to sources, Wykcoff had an off and on tumultuous relationship with Ballister, one that six months ago resulted in the Cranford woman filing domestic abuse charges against the Union man. At that time she obtained a restraining order against Ballister, but recently began seeing him again.

Late Thursday morning, two Union Fire Department canopies occupied the driveway of the home while county Sheriff’s department personnel streamed in and out of the residence. Although crime scene tape blocked off most of the street late yesterday, by morning only the house was off limits.

A Union County Sheriff’s Department Canine Unit van pulled up on the street, but left shortly afterward for a wooded area at the end of Walton Avenue. An officer and one of the canine unit dogs began searching the lightly wooded area, moving slowly, but methodically through the area.

As of 2:30 p.m. Wyckoff’s body still had not been found. Police have asked that anyone who had contact with Ballister or Schofield between Tuesday night and Wednesday night is urged to contact Union County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Robert Henderson at 908-527-4126 or 908-347-2686.