A 20-year-old New Jersey man has been arrested in the death of college student whose body was found at a state forest reserve last week, eight days after she was reported missing.
Khalil Wheeler-Weaver, of East Orange, was charged Tuesday with one count of murder and one count of desecration of human remains in the slaying of Sarah Butler, who was a second-year student at New Jersey City University.
Butler, of Montclair, was reported missing to the Montclair Police Department on Nov. 23 and had last been seen at a recording studio. Law enforcement officers found her body Dec. 1 in Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange.
Butler's father, Victor Butler, told NBC 4 New York Wednesday the arrest "gives me a sense of hope, but our main focus is burying her."
Prosecutors say Weaver and Butler knew each other and spent time together at various points throughout the day before she was killed. Something happened, and police believe Wheeler-Weaver strangled the 20-year-old student, killing her. He then took her car and left her body at Eagle Rock Reservation, they say.
Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murrary said Wednesday, "At this stage, we are only prepared to say that they were acquainted. She was a student at New Jersey City University. The defendant is not a student there but at this juncture we believe they were acquainted before Nov. 22."
Butler's father doesn't remember seeing Wheeler-Weaver around.
"I've seen a picture of him but I can't really say right now. I can only see my daughter's face right now," Victor Butler said.
Wheeler-Weaver is being held in the Essex County Correctional Facility on $1,000,000 bail. Information on an attorney for him wasn't immediately available.
Butler's college released a statement after her body was found mourning her death.
"NJCU is devastated by the tragic and senseless loss of Sarah Butler, whose life touched so many throughout the campus," the university said. "Our deepest sympathies go out to Sarah's family and friends during this difficult time."