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Authorities charge New Brunswick man for Billy McCaw's murder

The investigation of Billy McCaw’s Feb. 15 murder has led authorities to a New Brunswick resident, who was charged yesterday with beating the 22-year-old former Rutgers student to death.

Timothy Puskas, 38, who lived on Plum Street, was already in custody at the Middlesex County Adult Corrections Center in North Brunswick for an unrelated case since March 21, according to a press release from Andrew C. Carey, Middlesex County Acting Prosecutor and Anthony A. Caputo, director of the New Brunswick Police Department.

According to nj.com, Puskas was in custody for aggravated assault charges from an incident earlier this month. 

He is also scheduled to go on trial in June for charges of aggravated manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident in a January 2012 incident, according to nj.com.

Preliminary investigation showed that Puskas and McCaw did not know each other, nj.com reported.

Superior Court Judge Bradley J. Ferencz set bail yesterday at $5 million on the murder charge.

“I hope that the family and friends of William McCaw have at least some sense of relief knowing that the murderer has been charged and is behind bars,” Carey said in the press release.

University President Robert L. Barchi also sent an email last evening to inform the Rutgers community about the progress on the murder that shook the University and New Brunswick community.

The death of McCaw, a Kean University student whose body was found in the backyard of a house on Hartwell Street, also brought to light significant loopholes that exist in Rutgers’ safety system and within the New Brunswick Police Department and Rutgers University Police Department.

The incident yielded some progress: a new Neighborhood Police Team will patrol the fifth and sixth wards of New Brunswick and an expanded crime notification system will keep the Rutgers community aware of any crimes that are brought to the attention of the University. Yet safety continues to concern students, parents and faculty.

Jacqui Klein, a Middletown, N.J. resident whose daughter attends Rutgers, approached Governor Chris Christie last week at a Town Hall meeting in South River, after she failed to hear feedback from the administration in response to a letter she penned after McCaw’s death.

“I talked to Christie as a parent, and he spoke to me as a parent,” Klein said.

After her encounter with Christie, she received a phone call from New Jersey acting Attorney General John Hoffman, which was followed by the formation of the Neighborhood Police Team.

Felicia McGinty, vice chancellor of Student Affairs, told Klein that the University had addressed those they thought were touched by McCaw’s death.

Klein’s daughter Jenna Klein, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, started an online petition to advocate for improvement in the University’s safety mechanism. The petition had 2,874 signatures as of yesterday and still remains open.

Jacqui Klein said while she is grateful that Rutgers and New Brunswick have taken a step forwards in the right direction, more needs to be done.

She and many other parents and students seek to urge the University to further increase off-campus security by making changes to their website that would reveal information about these sites.

She said these links to the properties should not be posted unless landlords do not have basic security requirements.

Jacqui Klein is also concerned that with Rutgers’ involvement in the Big Ten Conference because exponentially more visitors will have access to the campus, and Rutgers administration needs to be pro-active with such issues.

For failure in the disclosure of maps of police jurisdiction of off-campus areas, Charlie Kratovil, editor-in-chief of New Brunswick Today, filed a lawsuit in February against the University and the city of New Brunswick.

On March 14, City Clerk Daniel Torrisi handed over the 1996 and 2004 agreements between the Rutgers University and New Brunswick police departments, which appear to include the maps. Kratovil said he finds it hard to believe no maps existed before 1996.

He also said the maps from 2004 and those that reflect the changes made in RUPD’s jurisdiction on Dec. 6, 2013 were exactly the same.

The current jurisdiction includes two blocks of Hamilton Street, a place majorly frequented by Rutgers students, but no jurisdiction exists for Easton Avenue or off-campus areas of Cook and Douglass campuses such as Ryders Lane or George Street, which are predominant thoroughfares for Rutgers students.

“RUPD is not allowed to pull people anywhere on these areas,” Kratovil said. “As a result, there is less police presence outside of the campus.”

The Neighborhood Police Team will be patrolling the neighborhoods during the evening and early morning hours, according to a NBPD press release. The assigned officers will be visible in the neighborhoods interacting with the students and residents, providing protection, assistance and information.

Officers also plan to encourage students to share their concerns by engaging in dialogue and providing firsthand feedback, which the officers can use to better serve the residents.

McCaw’s father, Bob McCaw, said he is happy to hear Rutgers is stepping up efforts to notify its campuses about crimes, according to an nj.com article.

Barchi thanked the community for their cooperation and patience during the ongoing investigation that has now charged Puskas.

“Although we have not been privy to each and every detail of this investigation, we promised that we would keep the community apprised of any developments in this matter,” Barchi said in the email.  “It is our hope that by sharing this information that we will add to the community’s sense of safety.”

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