Plainfield Residents Charged With Beating South Plainfield Man To Death

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SOUTH PLAINFIELD — Two Plainfield family members have been charged with murdering 53-year-old South Plainfield resident William Koonz, Jr., Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan and Chief James Parker of the South Plainfield Police Department announced.

James R. Thomas, 37, and Shelley A. Thomas, 53, were charged with murder in the June 28 fatal beating of Koonz on Sunday. Bail for each was set at $2 million. Investigators do not believe the killing was a random act, but say that the motive is still under investigation. James Thomas and William Koonz were prior acquaintances, according to the prosecutor’s office.

On Friday, June 29, at 11:07 a.m., South Plainfield Police responded to a request from a family member to check on the welfare of Koonz. After making entry into his Merchants Avenue residence, police discovered the victim’s body. An autopsy performed by the Middlesex County Medical Examiner’s Office, on Saturday determined that Koonz died of blunt force trauma to the head and was a victim of homicide. Koonz was employed through a family business, Wilpat Irrigation.

The investigation, conducted by members of the South Plainfield Police Department and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, resulted in Sunday’s arrests.

James Thomas was arrested and charged at the South Plainfield Police Department and his mother, Shelley Thomas, was arrested and charged at a residence in Plainfield. James Thomas is the self-employed owner/operator of In Scrap We Trust, a metal salvage business.

Members of the Plainfield Police Department and the New Jersey State Police assisted in the investigation.

Authorities are asking anyone with information about the case to call Detective Gary Cassio of the South Plainfield Police Department at 1-908-755-0700, or Investigator Jeffrey Temple of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at 1-732- 745-3373.

As is the case with all criminal defendants, the charges against all defendants are merely accusations and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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