Montclair woman murdered Thursday evening

Montclair resident Monica Paul, 31, was killed by multiple gunshots at approximately 6:30 p.m. tonight, June 26, in what is believed to be "a domestic related matter," according to Essex County Prosecutor Paula T. Dow.

"No arrest has been made at this point. A manhunt is under way," Dow said in a press conference at around 9 p.m. in front of The Helen & Bill Geyer YMCA Family Center on Glen Ridge Avenue, where the woman was killed.

Paul’s 11-year-old daughter was near her as they observed her four-year-old son swimming in the indoor swimming pool when "a black male came up, had words with Monica, pulled out a gun and shot" the victim several times, Dow said.

Dow identified the suspect as Kenneth Anton Duckett, 37, of North Essex Avenue in Orange. She said Duckett is believed to be the father of Paul’s two children.

"There has been a history of violence between these two individuals," said Dow, who noted that Paul may have filed a restraining order against Duckett.

"Still, a restraining order does not prevent horrific things like this," Dow observed.

The prosecutor said Duckett drove from the scene in a white Jeep with an unidentified accomplice. She identified the accomplice as a black male with light skin, black hair and brown eyes, between 5’5" and 5’7" in height, weighing between 140 to 150 pounds and wearing a yellow shirt.

 Anyone with information on Duckett or his accomplice is urged to call the Montclair Police Department, 973-744-1234, the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, 973-621-4111, or the Essex County Homicide Squad, 973-621-4586.

Essex County Sheriff Armando B. Fontoura said the Essex County CrimeStoppers program "has posted a $5,000 reward that leads to the capture of this individual."

According to Dow, Paul was seated in the observation area the facility’s swimming pool with her 11-year-old daughter, while Paul’s four-year-old son was in the pool, receiving a swimming lesson with other young children.

According to Dow, a man was observed approaching Paul. She said they believe that there was an exchange of dialogue between the man and Paul.

The man is then believed to have shot Paul with a revolver several times, according to Dow.

Dow said the shots "seemed to be targeted directly at the mother" and "the 11-year-old did see a lot.

"This was targeted, domestic-related and directed at her," the prosecutor said of the gunshots.

Officials said the assailant fled in a white jeep, which was found abandoned in Orange.

"The children have been taken away to the hospital," said Dow at about 8:30 p.m., adding that Y workers had rescued the children and the other occupants were removed from the facility.

According to police, as many as 50 people were in the YMCA at the time of the incident and numerous relatives were in the vicinity.

"There were a number of people in there, so it was kind of hectic," Montclair Deputy Police Chief Perry Mayers said, adding that "people were scattered about" and "immediate medical assistance was called."

Dow praised the Montclair Police Department for doing "an excellent job."

The prosecutor said she "commend[s] extensively the responses of the members of the YMCA" in safeguarding the children and adults inside the facility.

Also at the crime scene were members of homicide units and the Essex County Sheriff’s Department.

The Helen & Bill Geyer YMCA Family Center opened about a year ago on Glenridge Avenue, between Greenwood Avenue and North Willow Street, with a notable ribbon-cutting ceremony. As of Wednesday night, the Family Center was isolated behind ribbons of yellow police tape.

YMCA member Elda Soria, 46, of Montclair, was walking to the facility around 9:30 p.m. with her 4-year-old granddaughter, Angie Ruiz, hoping the girl could get a late swim when she stopped in shock by the swarming police cars and heard the horrifying news.

"There are so many people who come to pool," Soria said in Spanish. "I can’t imagine that something like this would happen here … this town is so calm. We always go out at night, walking."

Twenty-four-year-old Leyshing Ruiz, of Montclair, who is Angie Ruiz’s aunt, added, in Spanish, "They should out more security to enter, I believe."

Aamad Bush, 14, who lives in the apartment building next door to the YMCA, said that he was walking down Bloomfield Avenue near his home when the incident occurred. "My mother called me and told me that a man was on the loose ... that a black man shot his girlfriend and was on the run in Montclair," he said.

Bush’s friend, 15-year-old Marqui Salley, of Valley Road, was planning to spend the night at Bush’s home. "I just felt scared," Salley said. "This is sad."

Dow said the facility "will not be in use tomorrow, or in the immediate future."

- Erica Zarra, Mark S. Porter, Tanya Drobness, and TaRessa Stovall contributed to this report.

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