Woman accused of raping, killing senior was a friend, family says
OLD BRIDGE — Family members of Jo-Ann Cullinan say they are in shock after she was found dead — allegedly killed and sexually assaulted by a woman the family says was welcomed into her home for dinner several times a week.
Joann Cullinan was found dead inside her home on Wednesday at Glenwood Apartments on Route 516, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey said. Police were called after Cullinan's body was found. Police later arrested Caroline Beckert and charged her with first-degree murder, and aggravated sexual assault. The prosecutor's office listed her age as 70, though some news reports have listed it as 71 or 73.
Carey did not disclose a motive for the alleged murder, the nature of their relationship or where Beckert was found when she was arrested.
According to an affidavit obtained by NJ.com Beckert sexually assaulted Cullinan with an umbrella, and used both a knife and a hard object — a drawer — to kill her. It says Beckert called police and told them she had killed someone.
The affidavit, as described by NJ.com, describes the two as acquaintances. It says police recovered the knife, as well as a bloody umbrella and clothing,
In a statement obtained by CBS New York, Cullinan's family remembered her as "Aunt Jo-Ann." The family said she had a sister, a son and more than 30 nieces and nephews.
“We think it’s important to recognize and remember that victims of violent crimes aren’t just tragic stories you see on the news. They’re someones sister, mother, aunt, best friend; they are always precious to someone," read the statement.
Cullinan loved doing crafts with the kids in her family, making jewelry and told stories around a campfire with accents and character voices, according to the statement.
"Aunt Jo-Ann spent her life advocating for those with physical and mental disabilities, and she was passionate about showing kindness and compassion for those who were shunned by society," the statement says in part. "She was a very happy person who loved her family, and was deeply loved in return."
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
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