Love Triangle Eyed as Motive in Shooting of Little Egg Harbor Businessman
LITTLE EGG HARBOR — A business owner was shot by a man who believed the victim was having a relationship with the gunman's estranged wife, investigators say.
Donald Rutter, 51, remains on the run after being charged with the attempted murder of Thomas Jarvis on Jan. 5.
Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer said Rutter shot Jarvis at Jarvis Marine on Radio Road in Little Egg Harbor before fleeing. He remained a fugitive as of early Tuesday afternoon.
According to an affidavit filed by investigators in Superior Court in Ocean County, Rutter blamed Jarvis, 55, for the breakup of his 18-year marriage.
Two weeks before the shooting, his wife told him that she "no longer wanted to be with him as a result of his drinking," the affidavit says.
Rutter then moved into a camper on their property, according to the affidavit.
Around Thanksgiving, Rutter told his wife he believed she was in a relationship with Jarvis and that he was going to kill him, investigators said in the affidavit.
Rutter and Jarvis knew each other "for decades," Jarvis told police.
On the day of the shooting, a neighbor told Rutter's wife that her husband had parked his green Dodge pickup truck next to the camper. The wife called Jarvis, who moved the camper to an automotive garage next to Jarvis Marine for storage, the affidavit says.
A few minutes after that, Rutter's wife received a text from Jarvis saying "he shot me," according to the affidavit. Police said she knew Jarvis was referring to her husband.
Jarvis told police that when he returned to his business, he saw Rutter who smiled and pointed a gun at him. Jarvis said he jumped but was shot. He then ran to a neighboring house and called 911, investigators said.
When asked by investigators for a possible motive, Jarvis said that Rutter believed that he was responsible for breaking up his marriage.
The complaint and affidavit in the case do not confirm whether the victim was in any relationship with the fugitive's wife.