Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 19
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
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Body of Lawrence Woman Found Near School; Princeton, Lawrence Police Say Suicide Likely

Matthew Hersh

A missing person investigation that locked down Johnson Park Elementary School on Rosedale Road in Princeton Township last Tuesday resulted in the grim discovery of a 46-year-old Lawrence Township woman: the result of an apparent suicide that may have been occasioned by a failed relationship.

The woman, Elizabeth Ann Allen, was found about 100 yards from the school around 7:20 p.m. last Tuesday, police said, after an aggressive, nearly 18-hour investigation subsequent to the 2:40 a.m. discovery of her Toyota Sierra minivan parked at nearby Greenway Meadows Park. Police became suspicious when they noticed that the car was locked and a purse was resting on the front seat.

Township police contacted Lawrence Township Police, who were dispatched to Ms. Allen's home, where they found several animals that, Capt. Buchanan said, had not been cared for in several days. There were, however, no signs of foul play at the house or at the car.

Ms. Allen was disconsolate over a recent breakup with her girlfriend, Princeton Township Police Capt. Robert Buchanan said, leading Lawrence police to contact her estranged partner, who assisted police in the investigation. The two, Capt. Buchanan said, had had an argument the week before.

Police began tracking Greenway Meadows using two tracking dogs from the Mercer County Sheriff's office, and later one from the Ocean County Sheriff's office, but the trail ended at Rosedale Road. Police then surveyed the entire area by helicopter for more than two hours, hoping that the lack of foliage would produce a visual revealing to Ms. Allen's whereabouts.

Ms. Allen's former partner indicated that the two used to walk on trails in the school's vicinity. Using that information, police then acquired three dogs from Palisades Search and Rescue, and Ms. Allen's body was found in an area with heavy brush: "She was pretty well tucked away," Capt. Buchanan said, adding that the State Police, who were called in along with a FLIR (Forward-Looking Infrared) unit, could not find Ms. Allen during the aerial search.

While toxicology reports are not expected to come back for up to six weeks. Mr. Buchanan said drugs and alcohol were the likely causes of death.

Ms. Allen and her partner had apparently met at Johnson Park School several years ago, when they were employed by an outside agency doing case work there, Capt. Buchanan said; however, he added, neither was an employee of Princeton Regional Schools. Ms. Allen had been employed by the Hopewell Valley Regional School District since 2002, according to Lawrence Township Lt. Thomas Ritter.

Although the investigation continued throughout the day last Tuesday, Princeton Township Police and Princeton Regional Schools determined that there was no danger to the students, Capt. Buchanan said. While classes were allowed to continue, students were kept from walking or biking to school, since Ms. Allen's body was eventually found in such close proximity to the grounds police said. All students were sent home either by bus or car, Capt. Buchanan said.

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