Went to prison, turned life around — then killed in Route 18 shootout
ASBURY PARK — As questions remain about the shooting death of 54-year-old Earl Lloyd Sanders, whose body was found before dawn Sunday in a car on Route 18, the ex-con was remembered as a person who earned his nickname "Comeback" after serving time in prison.
Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni has released few details about the events leading to Sanders' highway death in Tinton Falls.
Investigators believe Sanders was shot by a gunman driving in another car while Sanders was driving south.
Police found about a dozen bullet casings along a half-mile stretch of Route 18.
The car came to rest on the grassy median of Route 18 near Route 537. He was pronounced dead at the scene. A passenger in his Mercedes was hospitalized for a minor injury and released.
Photographer Dwayne Love said Sanders was his barber and they struck up a friendship over 20 years.
"He was incarcerated for a time and came back out. Once again he was the 'Comeback Kid' and doing the right thing by the community," Love said.
"He was supposed to be cutting hair at a local church, giving out free haircuts to the kids before the school year ended. He was just a giving guy. For someone to shoot him down on the road like that was unforgiving," Love said.
Court records show Sanders was charged in 2003 with attempted murder, eluding and aggravated assault on a police officer and found guilty in 2006 by a jury. Police say he led cops on a high-speed chase after stealing a medical vehicle.
After his arrest, he was hospitalized after a mental-health breakdown in which he came to believe that his family had been murdered and replaced by imposters, according to press reports at the time.
He completed his prison sentence in 2017.
Love believes that Sanders legacy will be one of hope. After Sanders got out of jail, Love said he righted his own life by "doing well for others."
Love said that Sanders gave other kids from the neighborhood the opportunity to a trade instead of turning to the streets.
Sanders hosted a party recently at the VFW Hall in Asbury Park and said Sanders was always trying to help and "put some money in someone else's pocket. He knew the struggle and he cared. That's what's so touching about him. He was selfless, not selfish," Love said.
Love said he heard Sanders was on his way home to Neptune City from Freehold with his best friend.
"There were bullet holes in the front of the vehicle," Love said. "Of course, 'Everlasting' was all about saving a life so he decided to curve off to the median from 18 instead of hurting anyone else."
Funeral arrangements have not yet been been announced.