Church associate arrested in death of New Jersey councilwoman gunned down outside her home

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — A church associate of a pastor and town councilwoman who was gunned down in her SUV outside her home in February was arrested Tuesday on murder and gun charges, New Jersey prosecutors said.

Rashid Ali Bynum, 28, of Portsmouth, Virginia, was linked to the death of Sayreville Councilwoman Eunice Dwumfour, 30, after investigators traced his travels from his cellphone and vehicle location data on Feb. 1, Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone said at a news conference.

Sayreville, New Jersey, Councilwoman Eunice Dwumfour was found shot to death outside of her home on the evening of Feb. 1, 2023. Photo credit: Borough of Sayreville, New Jersey
Sayreville, New Jersey, Councilwoman Eunice Dwumfour was found shot to death outside of her home on the evening of Feb. 1, 2023. Photo credit: Borough of Sayreville, New Jersey

He also matched the description of the gunman given by neighbors in Sayreville, where Dwumfour had served on the council for about a year.

Tuesday’s announcement came nearly four months after she was found gunned down in her white SUV outside her rented townhome, while her 11-year-old daughter heard the shots from inside. Her death on Feb. 1 sent the community reeling.

Dwumfour was a pastor in a prosperity gospel church, Champions Royal Assembly, that is based in Nigeria, and she got married there in November to a fellow pastor from Abuja. She was also an officer of a related entity, the Fire Congress Fellowship, that has a branch in Virginia. Bynum was listed in her cellphone contacts under that group’s acronym.

Court records and tax filings suggest that church finances in the U.S. were tight. Dwumfour had been named in a series of landlord-tenant disputes in Newark dating from 2017 to 2020 involving the fellowship, which had seen its income drop from about $250,000 in 2017 to just $350 in 2020.

Dwumfour, who grew up in Newark, had lived in Virginia at one point, and family lawyer John Wisniewski said Bynum had lived in Sayreville. But beyond that, he did not know the nature of their relationship and the prosecutor declined to discuss a possible motive.

Sayreville Mayor Victoria Kilpatrick — a political ally who decided not to run for reelection as the slaying went unsolved — took some comfort that the killing did not appear politically motivated, but was troubled by the apparent link to a church to which Dwumfour was deeply devoted.

“The fact that it was connected to that component of her life is even more saddening to me because you look to God for light and protection. So to know that that was the connection hurts, but at the same time, evil can lurk anywhere,” she said.

Dwumfour’s father and family pastor learned of the arrest just ahead of the news conference and declined to comment afterward. While they welcome the arrest, they have “even more questions today than there were before,” Wisniewski said. Her new husband, Peter Ezechukwu, is no longer in the U.S.

“We have an alleged murderer in custody in Virginia, but now they are trying to also understand the relationship, how this person came to target Eunice, what was the rationale,” Wisniewski said.

Bynum was arrested in Chesapeake City, Virginia, without incident, authorities said. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer or when he might be extradited to New Jersey.

Dwumfour, a Republican, was elected to her first three-year term in 2021, when she ousted a Democratic incumbent. Colleagues recalled her as a soft-spoken devout Christian who could maintain her composure in contentious situations.

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