LINWOOD — April Kauffman spent Wednesday night talking to friends for hours on the phone, relishing recent achievements and dreaming out loud about future possibilities.
“We talked for probably an hour and a half (Wednesday) night, and she was very, very positive,” said Atlantic County Veterans Services Director Robert Frolow, who worked with Kauffman on several veterans-related issues. “She was probably at the peak of her vitality, where everything she was working for over the last few years was finally happening for her.”
Hours later, however, Kauffman’s family and friends were mourning her after she was found shot multiple times in the bedroom of her lavish Woodstock Drive home.
Kauffman’s house was still a cordoned-off crime scene Friday, with police tape and lingering spectators, as authorities continued investigating her death — work that Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel said Friday “should ultimately result in a successful investigation.”
He said Linwood residents should not feel any more threatened for their safety than before the killing, but they should always keep alert for anything suspicious.
“I don’t think the citizens of Linwood should be walking around in a panic,” he said. “Neighbors should always be locking their doors. This is 2012, not mid-18th century Kansas.”
Authorities towed the vehicle of Dr. James Kauffman, Kauffman’s husband, from Woodstock Drive on Friday.
“We are looking for any and all evidence that could help us in this case,” said Linwood and Northfield police Chief Robert James, who would not say whether investigators believe James Kauffman, or anyone else, is a suspect at this point. “We don’t want to leave any stone unturned.”
James and Housel said the Kauffmans were legal gun owners, but the officials did not provide any information about the number or type of weapons they owned. Neither would they comment on whether any of the guns in the house were used in the crime. However, Housel said it was “possible” that one of the weapons in the house was used, but would neither confirm nor deny whether that was the case.
Law enforcement officials were also outside James Kauffman’s endocrinology practice in Egg Harbor Township on Friday afternoon, where signs on the door said the office was “closed due to a family emergency.”
Police discovered the 47-year-old Kauffman — a grandmother, business owner, local radio host and community activist — at about 11:30 a.m. Thursday after receiving a 911 call from a worker who found her shot in her bedroom.
No arrests had been made as of Friday evening, according to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office and Mayor Richard DePamphilis III. No other information on the circumstances surrounding Kauffman’s death was released.
A preliminary autopsy was performed, but Housel declined to comment on how many times Kauffman was shot — even though his office said Thursday that it was “multiple times” — or where on her body she was hit, saying that doing so could hinder the investigation.
Housel, who said he knew Kauffman personally years ago, would also not comment on whether the weapon used in the killing had been recovered or if an arrest was imminent.
“In these times, we are lean on assets … but we have devoted a lot of assets, including Linwood’s assets, to keeping that scene segregated from the public and exploring many, many avenues of investigation,” said Housel, adding he would not say if authorities have a person or persons “of interest.”
“Right now, everyone is of interest,” he said.
Neighbor Millie Tate, 67, said she was first alerted to the tragedy Thursday morning as she stood talking to her neighbor from across the street and saw an emotional James Kauffman come out of the house.
“I saw Jim stumbling out of the house and drop to the ground,” Tate said, adding she then went to see what was upsetting him. “All he said was, ‘April is dead.’ I said, ‘Come again?’ and he said, ‘She’s gone.’”
Kauffman grew more emotional, and was “shaking and really upset by whatever he saw” inside the home, Tate said, adding the doctor began having dry heaves.
“He kept pounding the ground and saying ‘Why now?’” she said.
Kauffman said that when he left the house at about 5:30 a.m., his wife had been sleeping with a pillow over her head, which was customary for her, Tate said.
Later that morning Kauffman tried calling his wife several times, including at 8:30 a.m. and again at 10 a.m. but couldn’t reach her, which worried him, Tate said Kauffman told her.
The couple had a habit of talking often by telephone, at least once daily, Tate said. This was April Kauffman’s third marriage and James Kauffman has been married at least twice, friends said.
Then, at about 11 a.m., according to the account Tate said Kauffman gave her, he called a handyman who sometimes comes over to take care of April’s eight exotic birds. The doctor asked the handyman to check on his wife; that was when her body was found, Tate said.
Lee Darby, said she was a friend of April Kauffman’s for 30 years. Her voice was shaking and she had stop talking to compose herself as she spoke to The Press of Atlantic City on Friday.
“I feel like I lost my sister. I just loved her so much,” Darby said, crying. “She was such a good person and was special to so many people. It’s just so tragic, and it’s so hard to let myself believe it happened to her.”
Kauffman was also a favorite of Darby’s father Allan — a 90-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor whom Kauffman would regularly joke and flirt with.
“I have to tell him today that April is gone, and that is going to be so tough,” said Darby, who was waiting for a doctor to come to their Absecon home before she broke the news to her father. “I’m worried about what this will do to him. He loved her very much.”
The admiration was mutual.
“He is such a great man and has the most amazing stories,” Kauffman told a writer from The Press of Atlantic City in December after Allan Darby was featured in an article and video on the 70th anniversary of the attack. “What a hero. … They all are heroes.”
Darby said police were camped outside the Linwood home of Kauffman’s daughter, Kimberly, Thursday night to ensure her safety.
No suspect ‘that was a threat’
Housel would not confirm whether authorities were monitoring or speaking to any suspects or whether they were providing any sort of protections to anyone close to the case, saying any remarks could hinder the investigation.
Some frustrated Linwood residents said Friday they were upset that Mainland Regional High School, which is a couple hundred yards from Kauffman’s house, was not locked down after the shooting first reported.
Housel and James said police did not think that was necessary.
“Our information and intelligence at that time, and continuing at this time, is that there wasn’t anything remotely associated with a threat against the school or any students or staff members. Nor did we have any information that there was a suspect in the area that was a threat,” said James, adding police did immediately take the appropriate steps to isolate and protect the crime scene.
Atlantic County Freeholder Alex Marino, a Linwood resident who served on the Linwood City Council last year, said Thursday that the community was abuzz — through phone calls and discussions at youth sporting events — over the idea that someone had been killed in the usually quiet city.
That sense of shock intensified when they learned it was Kauffman, whom Marino called a Republican supporter and an outspoken advocate of many charities.
“It’s a shame for anything like this to happen, especially in a bedroom community like Linwood that does not see its share of violent crimes like this,” Marino said. “This is a loss for her family and it is a loss for the community, because she did a lot of good for a lot of people. She was very spirited and very passionate, especially about veterans’ issues. When she got behind an issue, she really got behind it. … She locked in on it.”
Darby, who called herself Kauffman’s “closest confidant,” said police interviewed her for more than an hour Thursday to get as much information as they could about Kauffman.
“I told them everything I could think of, but I still don’t know how something like this would happen,” Darby said. “April would always say that if anybody ever came to attack her that she would be shot in her back because she would be going for a gun. But I don’t believe that was the case. I believe that this was a case of rage. You don’t shoot somebody (multiple) times without it being some form of rage.”
She said police told her that Kauffman’s house was not robbed and showed no signs of forced entry.
Darby said that April Kauffman’s family and friends — including her daughter, grandsons, and one of her ex-husbands — were still struggling to come to terms with the killing and waiting for answers Friday. Kauffman’s family began making funeral arrangements Friday, Darby said, but exact details were not finalized as of Friday afternoon.
“We’re waiting for answers,” she said. “And we’re waiting for … we’re just still waiting.”
Staff writers Hoa Nguyen, Lynda Cohen and Sarah Watson contributed to this report.
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