NBCPhiladelphia.com, Deanna Durante
New Jersey State Police say they have collected evidence and are now questioning a man in connection with the stabbing death of 22-year-old Nicole Ayres. Ayres' body was found in a Southampton field Monday morning. She'd been beaten and stabbed multiple times. Ayres was a star softball pitcher for Deptford High School and went on to play for Fordham University. She recently transferred to Rutgers University.
The clothed body of a young woman -- beaten and stabbed -- found near soccer fields in Southampton Township, N.J. Monday morning was identified as star softball pitcher, Nicole Ayres, from Westville, N.J.
And the man police suspect in the case was in a local trauma center. Stephen Headley of Florence, N.J. took off on foot Monday night when he heard police were looking for him, was hit by a pickup truck and had to be airlifted to the hospital.
Headley, 28, Capital Health System, Fuld Campus in Trenton, N.J., where he is being treated for a fractured back, two fractured ankles and multiple fractured ribs, according to the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office. He was arrested Tuesday afternoon and charged with Ayres death.
Ayres, 22, played varsity for Deptford High School. She went on to pitch at Fordham University where she was named Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year as a freshman in 2007. She played one more year before leaving the team.
University officials described Ayres as well-liked by her classmates and teammates.
"We are absolutely stunned to hear about Nicole. It’s a sad day for us and the players who knew her. Our prayers and thoughts go out to her family and friends in this extremely difficult time," said Fordham softball head coach Bridget Orchard, who coached Ayres.
Ayres was recently enrolled at Rutgers-Camden where she was studying sociology.
Her family reported Ayres missing Monday to Deptford police. Township public works employees found her body, face down, next to a mound of dirt in an area near Route 206 and Buddstown Rd.
An autopsy showed Ayres died of stab wounds to her head, neck and back.
A man Ayres dated for a long time was at the Deptford police station Tuesday giving information to state troopers, according to a friend. State troopers hugged the young man when he left. He was not a suspect.
The murder shocked the quiet community.
"It's a big shocker -- nothing like this happens around here," said Mike Coolidge.
The area where her body was found is close to a township park and soccer fields. Neighbors and families who use the park were alarmed.
"Where they found her is where my son always plays when we're over at that soccer field," Coolidge said. "There's a pile of dirt back there and he's always running up and down the pile of dirt. So it's kind of scary -- had the workers not found her today, my son probably would have been over there this evening playing."
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