PRINCETON TWP. — A 69-year-old Highland Park man who had just learned how to use the computer was found beaten to death, allegedly by his 18-year-old roommate, late Thursday night at the Princeton House, a behavioral health unit of Princeton HealthCare System.
The roommate, Michael Leal of New Brunswick, was arrested on the premises and charged with murder. The victim, James Dunlavy, was pronounced dead in his room.
An autopsy by Mercer County Medical Examiner Dr. Raafat Ahmad’s office showed death was caused “by massive blunt head trauma,” reported Casey DeBlasio, spokeswoman for County Prosecutor Joe Bocchini.
Asked what caused the violent eruption, DeBlasio said, “The motive is unclear.” Nor could she say why the short-term adult care psychiatric unit had put two men of such disparate ages together as roommates.
The homicide was the first in Princeton Township in almost 28 years. The body of a missing 19-year-old girl from Lawrence Township, Maura E. Gottlieb, was found strangled in the Delaware and Raritan Canal about 30 feet from Harrison Street on March 14, 1982. That case remains unsolved, Princeton Township police Sgt. Ernie Silagyi told DeBlasio (see sidebar).
Princeton Medical Center is part of Princeton HealthCare System, as is Princeton House. The two roommates were private patients, not inmates placed there by any municipality DeBlasio said she had no information on why they were there.
Asked if detectives had found a weapon or knew what weapon had been used other than fists, DeBlasio said, “At this point I’m just going to say that he was severely beaten. Other details will have to wait until the bail hearing,” which likely won’t take place until the end of next week.
Yesterday, on-call Mercer County Superior Court Judge Douglas Hurd ordered the suspect held on $500,000 bail. Leal is lodged in the Mercer County Correction Center, known as the workhouse.
No one answered the phone at Dunlavy’s address on Sixth Avenue in Highland Park.
A quick Internet search failed to find any biographical information about Dunlavy or Leal.
“I can’t tell you how rewarding and exciting it was to find and be able to do the first tutorial,” Dunlavy told Microsoft Word Tutorials in an Internet testimonial. “That’s why I sent for the second and third. I’m a senior, and trying to find my way on the computer has been next to impossible. But your tutorial was so clear.
“Finally I have been able to connect with someone who speaks in a language regarding computers that I can easily understand. (And I almost have a degree in Electrical Engineering, so I have tackled some hard stuff),” Dunlavy wrote.
“It’s just some people like you have the ability to put matters in plain language that is easily understandable.”
He dated it July 29, 2008 — upbeat, hopeful words of a man with only 19 more months to live.
Bocchini’s detective, Robert Crusen, is working with Princeton Township police Detective Annette Henderson on the case.
New Jersey State Police processed the crime scene.