Authorities charge Orange man with Newark woman’s death

ORANGE, NJ — Khalil Wheeler-Weaver, the primary suspect in the strangling death of Sarah Butler, 20, a New Jersey City University student from Montclair, has also been charged with the homicide of a woman whose body was found inside a vacant house on Highland Avenue in Orange in the city’s South Ward, just a few houses away from where Mayor Dwayne Warren lives.

Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray said Monday, Dec. 19, that murder charges have been filed against Wheeler-Weaver, 20, of Orange, in connection with the death of Joanne Brown, 33, of Newark. Brown’s body was discovered on Monday, Dec. 5, inside a vacant house in the 300 block of Highland Avenue in Orange.

“The cause of death was asphyxiation and the death was ruled a homicide,” said Murray.

On Wednesday, Dec. 7, Murray and Montclair Police Chief Todd Conforti announced that detectives had arrested Wheeler-Weaver the previous day and charged him with one count of murder and one count of disturbing of human remains in connection with Butler’s death. Her body was discovered in Eagle Rock Reservation on Dec. 1.

According to Murray, Butler, “was reported missing to the Montclair Police Department on Nov. 23. Her body was discovered by law enforcement officers on Dec. 1 in Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange.

“An autopsy determined that Butler died as a result of compression of the neck and her death was ruled a homicide. An investigation by the Prosecutor’s Homicide Task Force led to Wheeler-Weaver being arrested,” Murray said Dec. 7.

According to Chief Assistant Prosecutor Thomas S. Fennelly of the Prosecutor’s Homicide Squad, the new charges against Wheeler-Weaver were filed Friday, Dec. 16.

“Bail was set at $5 million by Superior Court Judge John Gizzo,” Fennelly said Monday, Dec. 19. “Wheeler-Weaver continues to be held in the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark. The arraignment of Wheeler-Weaver is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 20, before Judge Ronald J. Wigler. The investigations into the deaths of Brown and Butler are continuing. At this time, there is no indication that the victims knew each other.”

Wheeler-Weaver was previously being held in the Essex County Correctional Facility with bail set at $1 million by Superior Court Judge Stephanie Ann Mitterhoff and awaiting arraignment in the Butler case when county authorities also charged him with Brown’s homicide on Highland Avenue in Orange.

Brown was Orange’s eight homicide victim in 2016.

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