Tara O’Shea-Watson was a tough yet kindhearted mother.
And she kept showing compassion for family and others in need even though she was beaten and abused by her husband for more than a decade, her cousin said Wednesday.
“Tara was an awesome person,” Bryan Dunn, 29, of Clayton, Gloucester County, told The Press of Atlantic City. “She was amazing. She was the best mom. Those kids had everything.”
Authorities continued the search Wednesday for Jeremiah Monell, the man State Police said killed his wife Monday at her Commercial Township home and fled. Police scoured an area of Saw Mill Road in Cedarville, Lawrence Township, where 32-year-old Monell lived before suspending the search at 5 p.m.
It’s possible Monell could be “just about anywhere,” said Trooper Lawrence Peele, a State Police spokesman.
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State Police are warning people not to approach Monell.
“(Monell) should be considered dangerous,” Peele said. “Whether or not he’s armed, it’s yet to be determined.”
State Police haven’t commented on what prompted the slaying or how O’Shea-Watson was killed.
Dunn recalled growing up with O’Shea-Watson, and said how she would take him and his friends to the Franklinville Skating Rink and to a mall. Dunn said he saw his cousin frequently, as she would always go out of her way for people.
O’Shea-Watson lived with two of her five children, ages 12 and 3. Her mother and her 18-year-old daughter live in Tennessee. Some of her other family members are in California, and another is in New York, he said.
Dunn said there are “more females than males” in their family, and his grandfather always said the girls would fight before the boys. That was especially true for O’Shea-Watson, he said.
“She was tough. She was a fighter,” Dunn said. “The smile never left her face.”
Then she met Monell more than 10 years ago and the smiling stopped, Dunn said.
“He wouldn’t let her go anywhere,” Dunn said. “Anytime I would call her, he would tell her to hang up.”
Dunn said he advised O’Shea-Watson not to marry Monell, saying he knew Monell was “trouble.”
Jennifer Messeck, O’Shea-Watson’s friend since childhood, said O’Shea-Watson got a restraining order and filed for divorce.
“That was the final straw,” she said of the legal actions that may have led to Monell killing O’Shea-Watson.
Officials with the state judiciary system said the restraining order is not public record.
Messeck, who lives in Laurel Lake, said the two children who lived with O’Shea-Watson were not harmed Monday.
A memorial was placed along the fence of O’Shea-Watson’s home.
One sign read, “In loving memory of Tara O’Shea.” “Rest in Peace Tara,” read another, which also referred to O’Shea-Watson as a “wonderful daughter, mother and friend. Gone but not forgotten.” A small purple stuffed bear sat on the ground behind a row of candles.
The home was decorated for the holidays. Small lights were draped on the fence, on which the memorial signs were placed. A large inflatable snowman was still operating in the front yard that contained two small children’s bicycles. A children’s playhouse sat in the backyard.
Friends and family of O’Shea-Watson are holding a candlelight vigil for her at 7 p.m. Thursday in front of her home on Raymond Drive.
On Wednesday morning, customers and staff at Dino’s restaurant in downtown Cedarville said they spent an anxious night after learning State Police were searching for Monell in nearby woods.
The people, who did not identify themselves, said they made sure doors to their homes, sheds and other buildings were securely locked. One man said all he heard during the night was the sound of a State Police helicopter flying over the scene.
State Police said they found O’Shea-Watson unconscious and unresponsive when they arrived at her Raymond Drive home in Laurel Lake shortly after 8 a.m. Monday. State Police said they were responding to a call about a dead woman.
Monell, a 5-foot-9, 140-pound white man, is wanted on a murder charge and weapons offenses. Bail is already set at $1 million.
Anyone with information about Monell’s whereabouts should call State Police at the Port Norris barracks at 856-785-0036.
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