A man charged with strangling a college student is now accused of killing another woman — who was found dead inside a vacant New Jersey home.
Khalil Wheeler-Weaver, 20, of Orange, NJ, was charged with murder in the death of Joanne Brown, 33, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray told NJ.com. He pleaded not guilty last week to murder and disturbing human remains in the death of Sarah Butler, a 20-year-old New Jersey City University student whose body was found beneath leaves and debris in Eagle Rock Reservation on Dec. 6.
Wheeler-Weaver was charged on Friday in the second killing and was ordered held on $5 million bail, Murray told NJ.com, adding that investigators want to hear from anyone with information regarding the two murders.
“We are looking for anyone who has additional information to call the tips line,” Murray said.
Murray said Brown was last seen on Oct. 22 in Orange. She was reported missing days later and a work crew found her body at a vacant house, where she apparently had been killed. Autopsies showed that both Brown and Butler had been strangled.
“The connection between the defendant and the victim remains under investigation,” Murray told NJ.com.
Butler, meanwhile, was remembered as a college freshman who loved to dance and performed several times at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Butler also enjoyed playing volleyball and worked as a lifeguard at a YMCA in Montclair.
“As a 20-year-old college student, she had a bright and promising future ahead of her,” Jo Ann Short, president and CEO of the Montclair YMCA, said in a statement. “The mystery behind her disappearance and ultimate loss of life is unsettling. Her family is grieving and we pray for answers so their healing can begin.”
Butler was reported missing on Nov. 23 after failing to meet her family for a scheduled trip to Jamaica. Murray told reporters during a previous news conference on the case that Butler and Wheeler-Weaver were at several locations together the day before in Orange.
Murray said they had a “slight acquaintanceship” but she declined to elaborate any further, saying there’s no indication that the two were romantically involved.
“This is a family’s worst nightmare,” family friend Pluchet Alexander told NJ.com. “She never did anything to anyone and was loved by all.”
Members of Montclair’s Premier Dance Theatre performed on Friday during Butler’s funeral, where crowds gathered for services following a vigil outside the family’s home.
Relatives of Wheeler-Weaver could not be reached for comment, NJ.com reports. It’s unclear whether he hired an attorney and prosecutors declined to discuss a motive in the killings.
Anyone with additional information is asked to call (877) 847-7432.