UNION COUNTY – The Union Township man accused of murdering a 43-year-old Cranford woman last week now faces additional charges including kidnapping and desecrating human remains.
In addition to first-degree murder, Matthew Ballister III, 43, now is charged with first-degree felony murder, first-degree kidnapping, two counts of second-degree desecration of human remains, and single counts of second-degree burglary, second-degree hindering apprehension, third-degree criminal restraint, third-degree hindering apprehension, and third-degree making terroristic threats in connection with the Oct. 22 death of his girlfriend April Wyckoff, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Friday.
The additional charges were based on investigators’ further review of the evidence in the case. State Superior Court Judge Robert J. Mega also approved the addition of $3.5 million bail to Ballister’s existing bail of $2 million, bringing the total bail amount to $5.5 million. The factors providing the basis for the bail increase included the seriousness of the charges, risk of flight, and the extent of the term Ballister would face if convicted: life in prison without parole.
A joint investigation spearheaded by the Union County Homicide Task Force and the Union Township Police Department determined that Ballister killed Wyckoff at his home before attempting to conceal evidence, according to Homicide Task Force Supervisor Michael Henn.
Human remains recovered in Newark on Sunday were positively identified as belonging to Wyckoff, and investigators continue to search for the rest of her body. The discovery followed an intensive search involving more than 200 municipal, county and state law-enforcement representatives combing through multiple areas in Hudson, Essex and Union counties.
Ballister made his first court appearance on Monday and a not guilty plea was entered on his behalf. Ballister’s mother, 70-year-old Eleanor Schofield of Mountainside, appeared in court Wednesday and also entered a not guilty plea. She is charged with fourth-degree hindering apprehension for allegedly interfering with the investigation by attempting to assist in his efforts to conceal evidence of the crime and has been released after posting $1,500 bail.
Authorities are asking anyone with information about Wyckoff’s death to contact Union County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Robert Henderson at 908-347-2686.
These criminal charges are mere accusations. Each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
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