SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – Whether it was cornering a dangerous murder suspect in an out of state apartment, or bringing Christmas toys to a family that lost all of its gifts in a burglary, local police rose to the occasion in 2015.
As part of National Police Week, South Brunswick Police Department held its annual awards luncheon to recognize those officers and citizens for their outstanding efforts to keep the community safe in 2015.
The awards luncheon, recognizing 25 officers and civilians, was held in the municipal building on Wednesday with over 100 people in attendance, according to a press release from the department.
Top awards went to a township resident who intervened to stop a residential burglary, a homicide investigation where a suspect was located and taken into custody, an investigation which led to the largest heroin seizure in South Brunswick history, and two cases in which officers took actions to save lives, according to the release.
“Today we recognize the excellence that I get to see every day. It is the outstanding effort of the men and women of the South Brunswick Police Department that makes a difference on a daily basis,” Chief Raymond Hayducka said in the release. “I receive letters weekly from citizens who tell me about officers who took the extra time to drive them to get gas or assisted finding a lost relative. Today we recognize the officers who went above and beyond to serve our community.”
The following awards were presented, according to the department.
Medal of Valor - Detectives Eric Tighelaar and Dennis Yuhasz
In June, Detective Tighelaar and Detective Yuhasz were following up leads on the whereabouts of a wanted murder suspect.
The detectives traveled to Pennsylvania to conduct additional interviews.
At a residence in New Hope, Pennsylvania, the detectives learned that the suspect was hiding in a back room.
The detectives entered the home and confronted the suspect who was armed. They were able to take him into custody and secure his loaded revolver without any injuries.
Citizen Appreciation Award – Susan Santawasso
On April 27, 2015, South Brunswick resident Susan Santawasso keen observations and quick actions led to the arrest of two men who were burglarizing a home.
Mrs. Santawasso noticed a vehicle parked in her neighbor’s driveway. She called her neighbor, who was not at home, and asked if she knew who there should be a car in her driveway.
The neighbor told her no one was home and that there should be no vehicles in the driveway.
Police arrived within minutes to find two burglars about leaving out a rear window of the home.
The suspects were both arrested and the stolen items from the home recovered.
“It is Susan’s care and concern for her neighbor that led to the call to police,” Chief Hayducka said. “It is people like this that help us keep our community safe.”
Life Saving Medal - Officer George Morgan
In November Officer Morgan responded to a call of an unresponsive and not breathing female.
Upon arrival he determined that 23-year -old victim had overdosed.
He administered NARCAN and revived the victim. His actions saved the victim’s life.
Life Saving Medal - Officer Brady Shelcusky, Officer Salvatore Fama
On February 26, 2015, Officer Shelcusky responded to a residence for a man who had not been seen in three days.
The officers learned that he had no cell phone activity and mail was piling up.
After repeatedly getting no answer, officers forced entry into the home.
They found the victim had suffered a stroke and was lying on the floor for several days.
The victim was transported to the hospital for proper care. Their actions saved the victim’s life.
Exceptional Service Medal – Sgt. Roger Tuohy
Sgt. Tuohy conducted an investigation into heroin distribution out of a township home.
The investigation resulted in the execution of a search warrant and the largest heroin seizure from a township residence.
His diligent work and follow up led to the arrest of one suspect and the shutting down of a local drug dealer.
Exceptional Service Medal – Sgt. Donald Varga
In November, Sgt. Varga responded to a Route 27 business for a report of a suspicious package.
Sgt. Varga took charge of the incident establishing a perimeter and evacuations.
He coordinated with several different County, State, and Federal agencies to successfully resolve the situation. His actions successfully resolved the situation without further incident.
Letter of Commendation - Officer Ryan Bartunek
In September, Officer Bartunek responded to a Dayton warehouse to investigate a reported theft of over $17,000.
He conducted a detailed on scene investigation which developed a suspect. The investigation developed crucial evidence which led to the suspect being charged.
Letter of Commendation – Sgt. Roger Tuohy
In May, Sgt. Tuohy responded to a report of two individuals acting suspicious on Jeffrey Circle.
As he arrived on the street, on suspect ran from the rear of the residence while a second suspect sped up the block to pick him up.
While both suspects fled the area Sgt. Tuohy notified responding officers.
The suspects abandoned their getaway vehicle a block away.
Sgt. Tuohy’s positive identification of the suspects along with physical evidence from the vehicle led to the suspects being charged. The suspects were linked to multiple burglaries.
Letter of Commendation – Officer Sean Roberts
On May 22, 2015, Officer Roberts responded to the scene of a vehicle burglary on Quincy Circle as an Evidence Technician.
Through his follow diligent crime scene processing he recovered physical evidence at the bottom of a nearby dumpster.
That evidence was crucial in identifying the suspects and their eventual arrest.
The investigation resulted in charging the suspects for 11 different car burglaries in the township.
Letter of Commendation – Officer William Merkler
In May of 2015, Officer Merkler was off duty driving in the township when he observed a vehicle that matched a description from a robbery earlier in the day.
Officer Merkler noted the license plate and passed the information along to detectives.
That information was the critical piece required to solve the robbery and arrest two suspects.
Letter of Commendation - Officer Gerald Sarno, Officer Dominick Delucia
In April of 2015, Officer Sarno and Officer Delucia responded to the area of Tulsa Court where a brush fire had spread to a nearby structure.
Their investigation and interviews with people in the area developed two possible suspects.
Within hours of the fire call, the officers had developed the investigation to the point that two suspect were charged with aggravated arson.
Letter of Commendation – Officer Domenick Delucia
In April of 2015, Officer Delucia was on routine patrol on Route 130 when he observed a vehicle fitting the description of a vehicle used in residential burglary a week earlier.
He conducted a motor vehicle stop and field interviews which led to additional investigation.
Two suspects were ultimately charged with the burglary of a South Brunswick residence.
Letter of Commendation – Sgt. Tara Jairdullo and Civilian Staff Julie Rebhorn
Sgt. Jaridullo and Civilian Staff Julie Rebhorn coordinated the 2015 Citizens Police Academy from September through November.
The Citizens Police Academy involved twenty four residents from South Brunswick Township and met for 11 weeks.
Sgt. Jairdullo and Julie Rebhorn organized the agenda and coordinated the efforts of officers assigned to instruct the classes.
Their dedication furthered the department’s positive relationship with the community.
Letter of Commendation – Lt. James Kinard, Sgt. Jeff Russo, Detective Michael Pellino, Detective Nate Labuda, Detective Monica Shearer
During the course of a homicide investigation, a suspect was identified and subsequently arrested.
The officer’s collaborative effort of collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses led to the arrest of the suspect.
Civilian Staff Recognition - Nancy Pyne
In March 2015, the department decided to discontinue the Forms Package site which contained pertinent forms and packages used by sworn staff.
Nancy Pyne volunteered to recreate these forms which are crucial to the daily operations of the police department and its officers.
In all, she re-configured forty two of these forms, some in two languages, for officers to use.
Community Service Award – Capt. James Ryan, Detective Michael Pellino, Detective Dennis Yuhasz, Officer Jason Gassman
In December of 2015, investigators learned that a home that had been burglarized two days before Christmas had presents stolen.
The stolen presents were meant for a young child in the home.
These officers coordinated to purchase several new toys on Christmas Eve and have them delivered in time for the child to have presents Christmas morning.
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