WOODBURY – On March 15, The Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office announced the arrest of a Paulsboro man in the murder of Swedesboro’s Sylvester “Buttons” Coombs Jr. who was found beaten to death on April 6 in an abandoned trailer in Swedesboro.
Malcom D. Tyson, 23, last known address Paulsboro, is being charged with first degree murder and two weapons charges. Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton stated that he is also being charged in the burglary and arson of the office of Lake Park Cemetery on Park Avenue in Woolwich Township on April 1. A separate investigation turned up forensic links with Tyson to the two crimes.
Tyson, who was already in custody since August 2016 for an armed robbery committed in West Deptford, could face 30 years to life in prison on these new charges.
Dalton stated that after 11 months of investigation and over 50 interviews including tips, the evidence “overwhelmingly supports” the arrest of Tyson. Dalton said that Tyson and Coombs had allegedly been acquainted but knew each other mainly because they were both from the same area.
Dalton stated that somewhere between April 2 and April 6, Tyson allegedly entered the trailer where Coombs was staying and struck him with his fists, feet, and a cylinder, causing blunt force injuries and death.
Sixty-year-old Coombs was considered homeless but was known by township police to frequent the trailer located on Locke Avenue in an abandoned Swedesboro business. He was found there about 11 a.m. on April 6. Police began searching for Coombs after it was reported that he had not been seen for several days.
Although Coombs was homeless, Dalton learned through the investigation that he was a special individual who never let his circumstances effect his positive sunny disposition.
“Buttons”, as he was known to everyone, was usually seen sitting on the bench on Kings Highway near the Kings Things Thrift Store. Volunteers at the Thrift Store were known to help him with medical and food needs when necessary. They were the ones that noticed that he hadn’t been seen and worried when he missed an appointment.
During the press conference announcing the arrest, Coombs’ sister and brother-in-law, Andrea and Alfred Lee of Pitman, spoke of the outpouring of support before and after Coombs’ death. “There has been such an outgoing commitment of love from the community of Swedesboro, from those who knew him,” said Alfred Lee.
“We had often wanted him to leave Swedesboro, to even move with us, but Swedesboro was the home that he chose. And once his passing happened, and from what we saw happening with the people in Swedesboro, and how they just opened their hearts to the family because of him, we understood what it is that Swedesboro had given him over the many years that he had lived there,” he said.
When asked if there was any relief after hearing the news of the arrest, Alfred said that his wife’s response was that she prayed that between now and the time of his (Tyson’s) death, that he knows the Lord.
Dalton credited the work of the county’s major crimes unit, particularly Det. Greg Malesich, lead investigator for the Coombs homicide, and A.J. Garbarino, the MCU’s arson investigator.
Assistance in the homicide investigation was provided by the West Deptford and Woolwich Township police departments and the Cumberland County Jail as well as members of the public.
A reward of $7,500 had been offered for information leading to an arrest. Dalton said that once Tyson has been convicted, the reward money will be released. Of the reward money, $2,500 was authorized by the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, $2,500 from the Borough of Swedesboro, and $1,250 from The Greater Swedesboro Business.
By Karen E. Viereck, Editor/Publisher