N.J. Councilman Fatally Shot by Former Colleague One Week After Killing of Another Lawmaker

Russell D. Heller, a Republican member of the Milford Borough Council, was found dead on Feb. 8 outside his car in the parking lot of the PSE&G facility where he worked

https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=106104810229932&set=ecnf.100024912398106. Russ Heller/Facebook
Russell Heller. Photo: Russ Heller/Facebook

A New Jersey councilman has been identified as the PSE&G employee who was fatally shot by a former colleague outside a facility, just one week after another state lawmaker was killed by gun violence.

Investigators believe "prior employment disciplinary actions between subordinate and supervisor," led Gary T. Curtis, 58, a former worker with the energy company, to shoot Russell D. Heller, 51, the morning of Feb. 8, according to a press release from the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office.

Heller, a Republican member of the Milford Borough Council, was found dead around 7 a.m. outside his car in the parking lot of the Somerset facility where he worked, authorities said.

Detectives were able to track Curtis to a parking lot in Bridgewater Township, where he was found inside a vehicle suffering from a "self-inflicted gunshot wound," the release states. He was later pronounced dead at the scene by medics.

Authorities identified the decedent as Russell D. Heller, age 51, Milford, New Jersey. Mr. Heller was actively employed with PSEG at the Somerset facility. Prosecutor McDonald stated that detectives from the Franklin Township Police Department along with the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit, the Crime Scene Investigations Unit, and investigators from the New Jersey Northern Regional Medical Examiner’s Office responded to the scene to conduct the investigation. The investigation revealed that a former employee of PSEG, whom authorities identified as Gary T. Curtis, age 58, Washington, New Jersey approached Mr. Heller in the parking lot, shooting him outside of his vehicle. Credit: Somerset County Prosecutor's Office
Gary Curtis. Somerset County Prosecutor's Office

The handgun revolver Curtis allegedly used to kill Heller and shoot himself was discovered in his vehicle and registered in his name, according to prosecutors.

Heller's death comes a week after 30-year-old Eunice Dwumfour, a fellow Republican member of the Sayreville Borough Council, was found shot dead inside her car not far from her home. No arrests have been made in connection with her Feb. 1 death as of Feb. 13.

Eunice K. Dwumfour
Eunice Dwumfour. Borough of Sayreville

Authorities have made no links between the two deaths, citing Heller's shooting as an "isolated incident" in which Heller was the intended target.

Following Heller's death, PSE&G released a statement.

"We are heartbroken at the tragic death of Russell Heller, a senior distribution advisor at PSE&G," the company said.

"Russell was an admired employee and a supervisor with over 11 years of service with PSE&G. He will be sorely missed by all and our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time."

Heller was first elected to the council in 2017 and re-elected in 2020, ABC News reports. Authorities said in the release that Heller's death "was not politically connected with his elected office or political affiliation."

Similarly to the announcement of Dwumfour's death, tributes poured in from local leaders.

U.S. Representative Tom Kean Jr. said he was "shocked and saddened by the tragic murder of Milford Councilman Russell Heller."

"Russell was an outstanding public servant who proudly represented the river town he loved," reads a Facebook post from the congressman. "My prayers are with his family and the Milford community."

Milford Mayor Henri Schepens told NJ Advance Media the council is "deeply saddened by the loss and our hearts go out to his family."

"He was so full of life, it's just unbelievable that he's gone," he said, per the outlet. "Something like this has never happened in borough history. We are very shaken by this."

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In a Facebook post, members of Milford Fire Company Station 92 remembered Heller as someone who "greatly enjoyed serving the residents of the town that he grew up in and was always trying to improve whatever he could."

Gov. Phil Murphy also shared his condolences on Twitter.

"Early this morning, a deadly shooting took place outside of a PSE&G facility in Franklin Township," the statement reads. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Russell Heller's family and friends in the wake of this tragic act of gun violence."

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