A New Jersey council member was shot dead in his car on Wednesday, one week after the unsolved slaying of Councilwoman Eunice Dwumfour.
Russell Heller, 51, was discovered dead shortly after 7 a.m. in the Somerset parking lot of PSE&G, the local energy company where the Milford Republican worked.
Cops quickly identified a former employee, Gary Curtis, 58, as a suspect — and found him dead in his car from a suspected self-inflicted gunshot three and a half hours later.
The councilman’s murder occurred exactly one week after Sayreville Councilwoman Dwumfour, also a Republican, was gunned down in her SUV outside her home about 15 miles away. Her murder remains unsolved.
Authorities have not linked the crimes, and the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office insisted that Heller’s murder appeared to be “an isolated incident.”
“The investigation remains ongoing to determine motive,” the prosecutor’s office said, while stressing that “Heller was the intended target.”
Gov. Phil Murphy sent “thoughts and prayers” to Heller’s “family and friends in the wake of this tragic act of gun violence.”
Rep. Tom Kean said he was “shocked and saddened by the tragic murder” of his fellow Republican.
“Russell was an outstanding public servant who proudly represented the river town he loved, Kean tweeted.
Milford Mayor Henri Schepens told NJ.com that “the Milford Borough Council is deeply saddened by the loss and our hearts go out to his family.”
Heller “was so full of life, it’s just unbelievable that he’s gone,” the mayor said.
“Something like this has never happened in borough history. We are very shaken by this.”
Heller had been a councilman since 2020 in Milford, a borough in Hunterdon County, according to the Franklin Reporter & Advocate.
Zachary Rich, the director of the county board of commissioners, expressed “collective shock and grief” over the “senseless shooting death.”
“Russell was a dedicated and valuable member of the Milford and Hunterdon County communities, and his leadership and commitment will be greatly missed,” Rich wrote.
“More importantly,” he said of the “tragic loss,” “Russell was a loving and caring father to his daughter and a dedicated and loyal friend to all who had the pleasure of knowing him.”
Meanwhile, PSE&G said it was “offering support” to employees following the “tragic and disturbing event.”
The energy company said it was “heartbroken at the tragic death” of Heller, a senior distribution supervisor at the company.
“Russell was an admired employee and a supervisor with over 11 years of service with PSE&G. He will be sorely missed by all and our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time,” PSE&G said.
No mention was made of the suspect, Curtis, or when he left the company.