Caroline Beckert, 40, allegedly sexually assaulted the elderly woman with an umbrella during the killing

By Steve Helling
May 27, 2019 01:53 PM
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Jo-Ann Cullinan
Credit: Facebook

On Thursday evening, a woman called 911 in Old Bridge, New Jersey, claiming she had killed someone.

Dispatchers contacted police, who rushed to the Glenwood Apartments and Country Club. When they arrived, responding officers found a grisly sight: a 70-year-old woman was lying in a pool of blood in her apartment. According to an affidavit from Detective Erik Larson, there was a bloody knife, umbrella, drawer and clothing at the scene.

Authorities alerted paramedics, who pronounced the woman dead at the scene.

Police arrested Caroline Beckert, 40, and charged her with first-degree murder, aggravated sexual assault, and second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. According to a press release from the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, Beckert allegedly fatally attacked Joann Cullinan inside her home – and robbed her of $15 in cash.

According to the police report first obtained by NJ.com, Beckert allegedly used the knife and the heavy wooden drawer to stab and bludgeon Cullinan. During the course of the murder, Beckert allegedly sexually assaulted the older woman with an umbrella, police allege.

While police have not explicitly stated a motive for the brutal attack, the arrest report states that the two women were acquaintances.

The brutality of the crime has stunned neighbors in the apartment complex. “I’ve been here for four years now,” neighbor Michael Shantz tells CBS News. “I’ve never heard or had this happen before.”

Another neighbor told the station that Cullinan was always friendly and used to wave at passersby, before becoming more withdrawn in the past year. “I have a feeling something happened,” the neighbor told CBS. “She looked like she needed help.”

Cullinan lived in the apartment with her adult son. It is unclear whether he was home at the time of the murder.

PEOPLE confirms that Beckert is being held without bond at the Middlesex County Adult Corrections Center. She has not yet entered a plea and court records do not reflect a defense attorney authorized to speak on her behalf. A court hearing is scheduled for Friday in New Brunswick Superior Court.

The medical examiner has conducted an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death. The results have not yet been released.