A Nutley man has been arrested in connection with the now-fatal assault on an 85-year-old man in his Belleville home on May 16.
The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and Belleville PD are jointly involved in the investigation of the incident involving the death of William Fitzsimmons.
In a joint statement, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray and Belleville Police Chief Joseph Rotonda said that Fitzsimmons was assaulted in his home in the 100 block of Cedar Hill Ave.
They said he was taken to University Hospital, Newark, where he died from his injuries on May 31. He was pronounced dead at 7:08 p.m., they said.
Cause of death, they said, was listed as blunt force trauma.
Following the assault, they said, Belleville PD arrested Ray Cooley, 25, of Nutley, on charges of attempted murder, burglary and kidnapping – for which bail was initially set at $450,000 – and he was taken to Essex County Jail in Newark. Now that the victim has died, however, the charges are likely to be upgraded, authorities said.
According to Belleville PD Det. Capt. Danny Ward, Cooley had been brought to HQ on prior drug charges and, while in police custody, allegedly admitted breaking into the victim’s home, assaulting Fitzsimmons with his fists, knocking him to the floor, and tieing him up.
Ward said Cooley reportedly threw Fitzsimmons’ cordless phone in a toilet and cut the line to a land line so that the victim would be unable to call for help.
Ward said Cooley told police that he had stolen some costume jewelry from the house but those items could not be accounted for. Ward said Cooley untied Fitzsimmons before leaving the house.
Ward said Cooley had known Fitzsimmons from having previously shoveled snow from the entrance to his house.
After Cooley became a “person of interest” in connection with the assault on Fitzsimmons, he was transferred from Belleville PD headquarters to the county corrections facility, Ward said.
– Ron Leir