Double homicide in Maplewood

Comedy club owner, au pair slain; police arrest Elizabeth man for killings

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MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The SOMA community was stunned Saturday by the news of a double homicide. Just one day later, law enforcement arrested the alleged perpetrator, but the quiet Maplewood neighborhood where the attacks occurred is still shaken.

Shortly after 6 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 3, Maplewood police officers responded to the area of Walton Road and Jefferson Avenue on a report of a woman being assaulted. Neighbors reported hearing a woman screaming. Arriving officers located an injured woman lying in the street. This victim, Karen L. Bermudez-Rodriguez, 26, was transported to Beth Israel Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead at 7:17 a.m. 

As Maplewood officers canvassed the area, they located an unresponsive male inside a residence in the 400 block of Walton Road. This victim, David Kimowitz, 40, of Maplewood, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Chief Assistant Prosecutor Thomas S. Fennelly of the Prosecutor’s Homicide Unit. 

Bermudez-Rodriguez, a native of Colombia, was employed as an au pair for David Kimowitz and his wife for their two young daughters.

An investigation by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Homicide Task Force and the Maplewood Police Department led authorities to charge Joseph D. Porter, 27, of Elizabeth, in connection with the deaths. Porter, who had been in a romantic relationship with Bermudez-Rodriguez, was arrested at Newark Airport where he was attempting to flee to Cancun, Mexico.

Porter has been charged with two counts of murder, possession of a weapon, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and criminal restraint. The charges against him are merely accusations; he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

According to court documents, Bermudez-Rodriguez had texted Porter early Saturday morning between 1:30 and 2 a.m., telling him she wanted to break up and that she wanted him to return her keys to her. Court documents say that at 6 a.m., Porter entered the Kimowitz home using Bermudez-Rodriguez’s keys. Once inside, he reportedly stabbed Kimowitz.

Then Porter tied Bermudez-Rodriguez’s hands together with tape, according to court documents, and chased her from the home with his knife, with which he then allegedly stabbed her.

Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens II praised the quick work of the Maplewood Police Department and the detectives from his office’s Homicide Crime Scene and Cyber units. Stephens also thanks the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, Port Authority Police Department and ICE/HSI for their assistance with the investigation.

While there is a sense of relief in the community that an arrest was made so quickly, many community members are still reeling from the loss of Kimowitz and Bermudez-Rodriguez.

Along with his wife, Kimowitz owned and operated The Stand Restaurant and Comedy Club in New York City. Many comedians across the nation tweeted out their condolences and shock at Kimowitz’s death.

The Stand posted its own response to Kimowitz’s untimely death: “Our dear friend and partner, David Kimowitz, was tragically taken from us early Saturday morning. It was a beautiful life that ended far too soon. Dave was one of the most beloved figures in the New York comedy scene and one of the driving forces behind The Stand. He treated everyone like family, and was a beacon of light, wisdom, positivity and kindness to so many comics in an otherwise unforgiving profession.”

The message praised Kimowitz for his drive and confidence, which helped put The Stand on the map. His former colleagues promised to carry on his legacy.

“But Dave’s biggest accomplishment wasn’t professional. It was his wife, Laura, and their two beautiful daughters who were everything to him. He was a loving father and husband, and he looked forward to going home to his girls every night,” the message read, adding that Kimowitz made every partner and comedian feel like part of his family. “Dave, we miss you terribly. And although no one can fill the deep void we feel in our hearts, we will do our best to live every day the way that you did.”

Donations for Kimowitz may be made to The David Kimowitz Memorial Fund through Venmo at @thedavidkimowitzmemorialfund and Zelle at thedavidkimowitzmemorialfund@gmail.com.

The Au Pair Community of Maplewood/South Orange, a Facebook group, started a fundraiser for Bermudez-Rodriguez to raise money to help her family lay her to rest at her home in Colombia. The Facebook link to the fundraising page is www.facebook.com/donate/503956403684986/10157416459097298/.

Additionally, a memorial was constructed in Ricalton Square to remember Bermudez-Rodriguez. The memorial contained flowers, candles and dozens of notes from community members. Many of the notes were in Spanish, though some were in English.

One read: “Karen, I am so sorry this happened to you. I want to thank you for your love and kindness. You were a special person and we will miss you! I know you will be watching over us and you will forever be in our hearts.”

Another read simply: “Sending love and light during this difficult time.”

While neither police Chief Jimmy DeVaul nor Mayor Vic DeLuca responded to requests for comment, Maplewood Committeeman Dean Dafis made a lengthy Facebook statement. 

“We stand together as one, united in our grief, sorrow and deep condolences for the victims of yesterday’s tragic and horrific double homicide in our quiet and safe community. Our sorrow and sympathies extend to the families and friends of the victims, and to anyone ever touched by violence, domestic or other,” Dafis said, condemning violence and weaponized hate against any group of individuals. “We encourage solidarity in spreading messages — and committing actions of — love, care and acceptance to neighbors near and far instead of hate or violence. We join with teachers, spiritual leaders, activists, healers and coaches everywhere in teaching our young men to love not fight.”

Memorial Photos by Yael Katzwer

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