UNION – After portions of April Wyckoff’s mutilated body were found in Newark last week, authorities added additional charges on top of the first degree murder charge against Mercer Avenue resident Matthew Ballister. Prosecutors also more than doubled bail for the Union man and indicated they would be seeking life in prison without parole.
According to sources at the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, last week Ballister, 43, asked to speak with police authorities because he did not want to be perceived as a “monster,” by the public.
Sources also reported that he said he “missed” Wyckoff. However, his attorney put the lid on his client doing any more talking, telling prosecutors he would not be making any statements or speaking with them.
Union County Acting Prosecutor Grace Park said Friday that in addition to the first degree felony murder charge against Ballister from Oct. 23, he was also being charged with first degree kidnapping, two counts of second degree desecration of human remains and single counts of second degree burglary. Also levied against the Union resident was a second degree charge of hindering apprehension, third degree criminal restraint, third degree hindering apprehension and third degree making terroristic threats in connection with the death of his 43-year-old girlfriend from Cranford.
The additional charges, said Park in a press release Tuesday, were based on investigators further review of the evidence in the case. State Superior Judge Robert J. Mega also approved the addition of $3.5 million bail to Ballister’s existing bail of $2 million, bringing the total to $5.5 million.
The factors leading up to this included the seriousness of the charges, risk of flight and the extent of the term Ballister would face if convicted, which is life in prison without parole.
A balding white-haired Ballister pled not guilty when arraigned Oct. 28 for the murder of Wyckoff, who police said was killed sometimes in the evening hours of Tuesday, Oct. 22.
Ballister’s mother, Eleanor Schofield, 70, of Mountainside, was also arrested in connection with the homicide. She was charged with fourth-degree hindering apprehension for allegedly interfering with the investigation by assisting her son’s efforts to conceal evidence of the murder.
Schofield was held at the Union County Jail until posting $1,500 bail several days later. On Oct. 30, she pled not guilty in court to the charge against her, but made no statement in court regarding the murder her son is accused of committing.
A series of bizarre events led up to Ballister being arrested at his neat, split-level home on Mercer Avenue the afternoon of Oct 23. giving rise to speculation about Ballister’s involvement in the disappearance of Wyckoff, which included “the strong overwhelming odor of bleach” when police went to the home. Authorities were investigating a call from a neighbor who called the Union Police Department to report that the night before they witnessed a body clad only in a bra and panties under Ballister’s Hummer.
Also setting off warning bells was a dropped 9-1-1 call from Wyckoff’s cell phone, which was picked up by the Kenilworth Police Department.
According to police sources, when the Kenilworth Police Department followed up by calling a telephone number Wyckoff listed in case of an emergency, it was Ballister on the other end of the line. Sources said Ballister told Kenilworth police he had not seen the Cranford woman in months, even providing authorities with the name of another man he heard Wyckoff was dating.
Another coincidence that played into the investigation was the fact Cranford police received a call from the Newark Police Department informing them Wyckoff’s vehicle had been found in Newark with the engine running and door open. The whereabouts of her body unknown, police began a search that would not end until five days later.
Despite police not finding Wyckoff’s body at Ballister’s home, authorities said there was enough evidence to arrest the Union resident on first degree murder charges and
keep him in the Union County jail on $2 million bail. Meanwhile, more than 200 municipal, county and state law enforcement personnel combed through multiple areas of Union, Essex and Hudson counties but failed to turn up Wyckoff’s body.
On Sunday, Oct 27, Union Police Director Dan Zieser and Union County Prosecutor’s Office Chief of Detectives John McCabe discovered a portion of Wyckoff’s grisly remains in five heavy duty contractor-grade black plastic bags in the Ironbound area of Newark off Raymond Boulevard. However, the Cranford victim’s torso, portion of her leg and one hand were not among these remains.
Although authorities continued to search for these missing body parts, Tuesday police reported that nothing had turned up so far despite an ongoing intensive search.
Wyckoff, a divorced mother of a 23-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter, had a troubled, off and on tumultuous relationship with Ballister since April 2012 when they began dating. In May Wyckoff filed domestic abuse charges against Ballister, subsequently obtaining a restraining order against the Mercer Avenue resident. According to neighbors and police, the couple reunited in recent weeks and was often seen together or separately walking Ballister’s four Husky dogs in the Mercer Avenue area.
According to police and prosecutor’s office source, the investigation remains active. Anyone with information about Wyckoff’s murder is urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Detective Robert Henderson at 908-347-2686