EGG HARBOR CITY - A mother of two was found dead early Sunday at the Harbor City Apartments, the city's first apparent homicide since a killing at that complex a year ago.

A resident walking to his mailbox saw the body of Deanna Downs, 29, in a courtyard behind her Washington Avenue apartment, the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office said in a news release Sunday.

"Although investigators at the scene believed the victim was fatally shot, a subsequent autopsy determined the cause of death to be blunt force trauma," the Prosecutor's Office stated.

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Police initially responded to the incident under the impression that Downs had suffered a gunshot wound, Madelaine Vitale, a spokeswoman for the Prosecutor's Office, said Sunday night.

Downs was pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities are seeking suspects.

"I just cannot believe it. It just doesn't make sense," said Atlantic City resident Shantila Whetstone, who learned of her friend's death in a Press of Atlantic City online bulletin. They had attended Fanny D. Rittenberg School in Egg Harbor City together, Whetstone said.

The city's last homicide happened Oct. 12, 2009, when two cousins, Sandy Thomas, 30, and Shawn Travis, 24, were shot at a Harbor City Apartments party.

Thomas died. Travis was critically injured but survived. Police in Philadelphia arrested Hamilton Township resident Rafael Olmo, 26, the following day in connection with the crime.

No trace of a crime scene remained at Harbor City Apartments on Sunday afternoon, other than the city and county investigators who continued to interview residents.

Residents stood and talked in groups around the complex, but they declined to speak with a reporter. Downs' mother, Terri Downs, also declined to speak.

Anyone with information on Downs' death can contact authorities in the following ways:

n Call the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office at 609-909-7800, or Crime Stoppers at 609-652-1234 or 800-658-8477.

Contact Eric Scott Campbell:


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