WEST ORANGE, NJ — Law enforcement is investigating two deaths that occurred in West Orange on May 31. Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens II announced June 2 that the West Orange Police Department and the prosecutor’s Homicide and Major Crimes Task Force are investigating the fatalities.
Sushmita Bardhan, 36, and her 6-year-old daughter were found dead in their Suzan Court apartment by a family member after sustaining fatal gunshot wounds on May 31.
According to the release, the investigation is active and ongoing; there is no danger to the community. ECPO public information officer Katherine Carter said in an email to the West Orange Chronicle on June 4 that no other information has been released. WOPD Chief James Abbott deferred to the prosecutor’s office when asked for comment on June 4.
The 6-year-old, whose name was not released, was a student at Kelly Elementary School. In an email to district staff on June 5, which was forwarded to the Chronicle, Superintendent of Schools Scott Cascone said counseling staff is available to support students and staff.
“The efforts of the crisis team over the last several days have been extraordinary and focused on supporting the students, staff and families of Kelly School. Due to the sensitive nature of this event, we have been erring on the side of respect for the family’s privacy,” Cascone said.
The student had special needs, and Cascone said Director of Special Services Kristin Gogerty will be communicating with parents of other special needs students at Kelly and in the district.
Cascone called the deaths “an unthinkable tragedy of this magnitude which impacts one of our schools, impacts us all, and may be particularly difficult for our souls to bear on top of all which we have been through as a community and continue to go through more recently in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.”
“Words will always fall short in times like these, and calls for strength and resolve ring hollow,” he said. “We can, however, take comfort in one another and the bonds we share as friends, family, colleagues and human beings. And even as we acknowledge the darkness and sadness which can sometimes permeate our world and lives, let us look to the lights of kindness, goodness and generosity that abound and are all around us. I wish you safety, peace and calm and am glad to stand with you in these challenging times.”