- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
NEW BRUNSWICK – Rashid Ali Bynum, the 29-year-old Virginia man charged with fatally shooting Sayreville Councilwoman Eunice Dwumfour 14 times in what prosecutors are calling an "ambush," was ordered Monday to remain behind bars pending the outcome of the case.
A not guilty plea was entered on all charges on behalf of Bynum by his attorney, Thomas Ashley, before Superior Court Judge Joseph Paone during Bynum's arraignment and detention hearing.
Bynum, dressed in a green jail uniform with his shoulder-length hair covering much of his face, did not speak during the court proceeding.
Bynum was indicted by a Middlesex County grand jury earlier this month on charges of first-degree murder, second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon and second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose in the February killing.
Bynum, who was arrested May 30 in Chesapeake, Virginia, will remain in the Middlesex County Adult Correction Center in North Brunswick pending the outcome of the case. He was extradited to New Jersey in late July.
Bynum's next court date is scheduled for late October.
Mother of Eunice Dwumfour arrested
Mary Dwumfour, the councilwoman's mother who had been sitting behind Bynum along with other family members for the hour-long proceeding, cried at times during the hearing and allegedly threw a water bottle toward him as he was being led from the courtroom at the end of the proceeding. It's unclear if Bynum was struck.
Former Assemblyman John Wisniewski, attorney for Mary Dwumfour and her husband Prince, said she was handcuffed by Middlesex County sheriff's officers in the courtroom, fingerprinted and charged with a disorderly persons offense. He said that case will be heard in New Brunswick Municipal Court, and he will represent Mary Dwumfour.
"The entire family is very emotional. This is the first time they've been in close proximity to the individual who is accused of taking their daughter's life. It's very traumatic and very upsetting to them. I think that in part is what influenced what happened in the courtroom," Wisniewski said, adding the family understands that it is not something that should have happened. He added it was "unfortunate" that Mary Dwumfour was handcuffed.
During the hearing Ashley, whose co-counsel is attorney Michael Ashley, tried to get the detention hearing adjourned, noting there were 6,000 pages of discovery that he had not had a chance to fully review and discuss with his client.
He also argued there is no identification of Bynum by any witnesses, just circumstantial evidence.
But the judge noted the detention hearing had already been postponed several times, some at Ashley's request, and the evidence has been available since at least Aug. 1.
Thomas Ashley said he has reviewed the affidavit of probable cause and understands there is video surveillance capturing the suspect allegedly fleeing the scene, but he plans to challenge the accuracy of the footage.
He also challenged whether the description of the suspect matched Bynum as well as whether Bynum was the driver of a vehicle spotted at the scene and whether a cellphone reportedly detected in the area of the slaying is connected to his client.
"There is no indication Mr. Bynum had any reason at any time to shoot the victim," Ashley said.
On Feb. 1 around 7:22 p.m. Dwumfour, a Republican and Sayreville's first Black elected official, was shot multiple times inside her car outside her home in the area of Check Avenue in the Parlin section of the borough. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Assistant Prosecutor Amber Gibbs, whose co-counsel is Assistant Prosecutor Kristen Pridgen, said Dwumfour was shot 14 times while sitting in the car outside her home, shortly after her daughter got out of the vehicle.
She said 14 cartridge cases of 9mm bullets were found at the scene.
Eunice Dwumfour and Rashid Bynum shared an apartment
The killing happened just months after Dwumfour, 30, a single mother, got married with ceremonies held in both the United States and Nigeria.
Gibbs said Dwumfour, a pastor in her church, and Bynum knew each other.
They met years ago when she was recruiting members join the church, Gibbs said. Bynum was recruited to join the church in Virginia, brought to New Jersey and lived with Dwumfour, her daughter and other church members for some time to provide guidance, but it became apparent to church members that Bynum was not following church practices, and he was asked to return to Virginia, she said.
Wisniewski said the church rented several apartments in the Sayreville area, and it was while Dwumfour was living in SkyTop Gardens that Bynum and other church members also lived with her. He said her family was unaware of any relationship the two had.
After police received several 911 calls about the shooting, surveillance video captured a suspect fleeing the scene in the area of Ernston Road. Witnesses reported seeing a thin man, about 6 feet tall with ear-length braids or dreadlocks and a suspicious white Hyundai on Gondek Drive minutes before the shooting.
Video footage also showed a person walking from the vehicle on Gondek Drive toward Check Avenue just before the shooting and firing into Dwumfour's vehicle.
Court papers indicate a cellphone associated with Bynum traveled from Virginia to New Jersey and back to Virginia on the day of the shooting and the phone was in the area of Gondek Drive and Ernston Road just before the shooting. The investigation also found Bynum's cellphone traveled through E-ZPass locations in Newark, Woodbridge and Linden at the same time as a white Hyundai Elantra with a Virginia license plate.
The registration for the vehicle indicated it was owned by someone in Virginia who offered the vehicle for rent. Gibbs said records show Bynum called the owner the day before the shooting and had a rental agreement, photo of Bynum and his driver's license and a statement from the registered owner confirm Bynum made a cash transaction to rent the white Hyundai Elantra on Jan. 31, 2023, in Virginia, and on Feb 1 he traveled from Virginia to New Jersey and then returned to Virginia.
Court papers also show Bynum was listed as a contact in Dwumfour's cellphone, in association with Fire Congress Fellowship, a church with which Dwumfour and Bynum had both previously been associated with. On the day of the murder Bynum alleged conducted an internet search on Sayreville, particularly the Parlin section.
On May 30 when Bynum was arrested, a search warrant was executed at the Smithfield address and a Glock 19 handgun was found in a black fanny pack belonging to Bynum, Gibbs said.
The New Jersey State Police ballistics laboratory compared the recovered discharged cartridges and test cartridges from the pistol at the Smithfield address, and the results showed the 14 cartridges from the shooting location were identified as being discharged from the same Glock 19 handgun that was found inside the black fanny pack, Gibbs said.
"Based on this information the state believes the weight of the case is strong. While counsel mentioned we have not provided a motive, it is not the state's obligation to explain to the defense why someone does something. We are here to make sure it's clear to the people that this is the who committed the offense, not why," Gibbs said.
Gibbs said Bynum planned, premeditated and drove hours from Virginia to New Jersey, lied in wait and "ambushed an unassuming individual in her car while she was waiting outside of her home right after she let her daughter and friend go inside the home and shot her 14 times, unloading the entire clip of the magazine, and then got back into his vehicle and drove back to his state where he hid. There can be no more serious case then when someone lies to ambush another."
Suzanne Russell is a breaking news reporter for MyCentralJersey.com covering crime, courts and other mayhem. To get unlimited access, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: Sayreville Councilwoman Eunice Dwumfour shot 14 times in 'ambush'