Murder suspect remains in custody as police search for body of Cranford victim

UNION – Suspect Matthew Ballister III remained in the county jail this morning on $2 million bail but has refused to tell police where he dumped the slain body of his Cranford girlfriend, April Wyckoff.UCL-union homicide1-C

According to police sources, more than 100 law enforcement officers along with the Hudson County K-9 Unit, U.S. Park Police K-9 and Bergen County Sheriff’s Crime Scene Unit were also on the scene searching Liberty State Park for the Wyckoff’s body.

A Union County Police boat was also seen near the river walk.

(This is an update to a previous story: Police charge male suspect with murder of Cranford woman)

Meanwhile, according to one police source, the search for the body continued

Matthew Ballister III
Matthew Ballister III in Union County. According to one source and witnesses, police and detectives continued to scour wooded areas and other locations in the county with the hope of finding the body of the 43-year-old mother of two children.

According to one prosecutor’s office source involved with the investigation, based on Ballister’s mobile phone bouncing off cell towers, authorities know the 43-year-old Mercer Avenue resident spent the early morning hours of Wednesday Oct. 23 driving through Union, Essex and Hudson counties. It was also during this period of time that police believe Ballister ditched Wyckoff’s car in Newark, leaving the door open and engine running.

Liberty Park was zeroed in on for a more intensive search for Wyckoff’s body because cell phone records showed Ballister stopped in the park long enough to have disposed of Wycoff’s body.

This morning the Union County Prosecutor’s Office said there is enough evidence to indicate the method of murder was blunt force trauma and that Ballister, charged with first degree murder and being held on $2 million bail in the county jail, killed Wyckoff in his Mercer Avenue home sometime Tuesday evening.

The only eyewitnesses to possible timing of the homicide were nearby neighbors who came home after dark Tuesday evening and saw a woman’s body clad in a bra and panties under Ballister’s Hummer. The witnesses, though, did not report what they saw to police until the following afternoon, Wednesday Oct. 23, according to officials.

At that point police say they converged on the Mercer Avenue residence with guns drawn and Ballister was eventually taken into custody and charged with Wyckoff’s murder.

A Kenilworth police source reported their department received a dropped 9-1-1 call Tuesday evening from Wyckoff’s cell phone, which was followed up on by the prosecutor’s office and is part of the ongoing investigation.

Police authorities are still searching for Ballister’s 2005 pale green Hummer H2, New Jersey license plate J29-CSS, which remains missing.

His mother, Eleanor Schofield, of Mountainside, was charged with fourth-degree hindering apprehension for allegedly interfering with the investigation by helping to conceal evidence of the crime. She is also being held at the county jail on $1,500 bail.

According to sources, Wyckoff had an off and on tumultuous and often violent relationship with Ballister for several years. In fact, in May the Cranford mother filed a domestic violence charge against Ballister and a restraining order was issued against the Union man.

However, according to information obtained by LocalSource, Wyckoff, who recently moved to Berkley Place in Cranford, had begun seeing Ballister again in recent weeks.

Authorities urge anyone who had contact with Ballister or Schofield between Tuesday night and Wednesday night to contact Union County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Robert Henderson 908-527-4126 or 908-347-2686. Also, anyone who sees an abandoned vehicle resembling the 2005 Hummer H2 should call the same number.