New Jersey

Slain College Student Sarah Butler Mourned in New Jersey Services

The body of 20-year-old Sarah Butler was found Dec. 1 in Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange

What to Know

  • Sarah Butler was reported missing Nov. 23; her body was discovered more than a week later in the woods in New Jersey
  • The medical examiner ruled she died of compressions to the neck
  • The Montclair woman was a second-year student at New Jersey City University in Jersey City

Friends and family filed into a New Jersey church Friday to say goodbye to the 20-year-old college student found dead at a state forest reserve days after she was reported missing.

Those who knew Sarah Butler filed into St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Montclair for her funeral Friday.  

"I think of her as an angel, looking out for us," said one woman. 

The Montclair native -- a local lifeguard and avid dancer -- was also mourned at a wake in the same church Thursday night. 

"To be here tonight and see what's going on, it's literally devastating," said Shelia Celian, a friend of Butler.

"Something like this should have never happened to her," said family friend Raymond Armour. 

"It's very hard. It's very hard," said Elaine Mathews, another family friend. "I felt like it was just like my own child." 

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.

Khalil Wheeler-Weaver, of East Orange, also 20, was arrested in her death. He pleaded not guilt on Monday to the charges of murder and desecration of human remains. 

Investigators have said the two were acquaintances and did not have a romantic relationship. They believe Wheeler-Weaver strangled Butler. 

Police haven't released a motive. But Butler's loved ones want answers.

"For whoever did this to her, it's crazy that you could feel the need to take someone's life," said Celian. 

Butler's funeral will take place Friday morning in Montclair.

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