Two New Jersey Republicans serving on local councils have been murdered in assassination-style shootings in the last week. The latest murder involved the shooting of Russel Heller, 51, who was found dead in his car just after 7:00 a.m. Wednesday morning.
According to the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, Heller’s body was discovered in the parking lot at his workplace at local energy company PSE&G.
Heller had worked for PSE&G for 11 years and was most recently assigned as a senior distribution supervisor with the company. In addition, he served as a Republican member of the borough council in Milford in Hunterdon County.
Former PSE&G employee Gary Curtis, 58, has been identified by authorities as the suspected shooter. Curtis was found dead in his vehicle three hours after Heller’s body was found. Curtis appears to have perished from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Milford Mayor Henri Schepens told local reporters that the council “is deeply saddened by the loss and our hearts go out to his family.”
“He was so full of life, it’s just unbelievable that he’s gone. Something like this has never happened in borough history. We are very shaken by this,” Schepens added.
Investigators have not determined a motive for the murder. In addition, PSE&G has not provided any statement about whether Heller and Curtis had any previous working or personal relationship.
I am shocked and saddened by the tragic murder of Milford Councilman Russell Heller. Russell was an outstanding public servant who proudly represented the river town he loved. My prayers are with his family and the Milford community.
— Congressman Tom Kean (@CongressmanKean) February 8, 2023
Rep. Tom Kean (R-NJ) wrote on Twitter that he is “shocked and saddened by the tragic murder of Milford Councilman Russell Heller. Russell was an outstanding public servant who proudly represented the river town he loved.” He added: “My prayers are with his family and the Milford community.”
Heller’s murder occurred exactly one week after the killing of Sayreville Councilwoman Eunice Dwumfour. She was also found dead inside her vehicle after being shot multiple times. No suspect or apparent motive has been identified in Dwumfour’s killing.
Dwumfour, 30, was a part-time EMT and business analyst. She also served on the Sayreville Human Relations Commission and worked with a Nigerian-based church group.
Fellow councilmember Mahesh Chitnis told reporters, “I am shocked, scared, and heartbroken. She was shot while returning back home. She was a woman full of life. Eunice, rest in peace, my friend.”
Heller was most recently elected to office in 2020, and Dwumfour was first elected in 2021.
Dwumfour’s murder occurred just 15 miles from the scene of the killing of Heller. Prosecutors have said they do not have any evidence that indicates the murders are connected.