A Union Township man who murdered and dismembered his girlfriend a little more than four years ago before scattering her remains in at least two locations in North Jersey has been sentenced to 70 years in state prison for the crime.
Matthew Ballister III, 47, must serve at least 85 percent of a 62-year sentence for murder before the possibility of parole, as well as a consecutively applied eight-year sentence for desecration of human remains, under the terms set down Monday by state Superior Court Judge Stuart Peim. A six-week trial that ended two months ago resulted in convictions on all counts against Ballister in connection with the death of 43-year-old April Wyckoff of Cranford.
A joint investigation involving the Union County Homicide Task Force, Union Police Department, and Union County Sheriff’s Office resulted in Ballister being arrested and charged with murder on Thursday, October 24, 2013 – two days after Wyckoff had died at his hands, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutors Scott Peterson and Jillian Reyes, who prosecuted the case.
Three days after the arrest, following an intensive search involving more than 200 municipal, county, and state law-enforcement representatives combing through multiple areas in Essex, Hudson, and Union counties, human remains were recovered on Raymond Avenue near the Pulaski Skyway in Newark and positively identified as belonging to Wyckoff, Peterson and Reyes said. The rest of her body was never found.
Union County Medical Examiner Dr. Junaid Shaikh testified at trial that dozens of sharp- and blunt-force pre-mortem injuries were inflicted on Wyckoff’s head and legs prior to Ballister running her over with his Hummer in the driveway of his home on the 300 block of Mercer Avenue in Union Township. During the 12 hours that followed, Ballister dismembered and disposed of Wyckoff’s body in garbage bags, abandoned her car in Newark, purchased approximately $75 in cleaning products at the Home Depot in Watchung, and returned home to start cleaning.
Statements from multiple family members, including Wyckoff’s daughter and younger sister, were read into the record prior to sentencing Monday. Peim denied Ballister’s attorney’s claim that the statements’ repeated labeling of Ballister as a “monster” was unacceptably inflammatory.
“I’ve been doing this for many, many years. I’ve handled many, many murder cases, all of them brutal, violent murders, but this one was different. It was particularly vile and barbaric,” Peim said. “To systematically butcher and dispose of a human being … reflects no decency or humanity. None.”
“There was zero remorse here,” Peterson added prior to sentencing.
Ballister spent the four years leading up to trial lodged in Union County Jail on $5.5 million bail. His mother, 74-year-old Eleanor Schofield of Mountainside, remains charged with fourth-degree hindering apprehension for allegedly interfering with the investigation by attempting to assist in his efforts to conceal evidence of the crime.
The Prosecutor’s Office would like to again thank the Union Police Department, Union County Sheriff’s Office, Union County Emergency Response Team, Cranford Police Department, Mountainside Police Department, United States Park Police, New Jersey National Guard, New Jersey State Police, New Jersey State Park Police, Bergen County Sheriff’s Office, Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, Jersey City Police Department, Newark Police Department, Perth Amboy Police Department, and members of the 109th graduating class of the John H. Stamler Police Academy for assisting in the investigation and search for Ms. Wyckoff’s body.