June 30, 2004
Man served more than 11 years behind bars for 1992 incident
By: Peggy Wright
William R. Coombs Jr., who tried to murder his wife by cutting her throat ear to ear in a supermarket parking lot in Kinnelon in 1992, has been released from state prison after serving slightly more than 11 years behind bars.
Coombs, now 51, was released from the East Jersey State Prison camp, a minimum-security section of the prison, on April 1. He now is living in an undisclosed location in New Jersey. He was denied parole two years ago, but in April was released without the restrictions of parole because with credits for good time he exhausted his sentence, or “maxed out,” said state Department of Corrections spokesman Matt Schuman.
“His wife was a tremendously brave woman to endure what she went through,” said attorney James Porfido. As a Morris County assistant prosecutor in 1994, Porfido gained a jury’s conviction of Coombs for the Dec. 29, 1992, attempted murder of his wife, Dawn, the mother of his two daughters.
Dawn Coombs, who was 37 at the time of the attack, is aware of her now-ex-husband’s release from prison and is living in another state under a different name, according to Sandra McGowan, victim-witness coordinator for the prosecutor’s office.
Coombs was sentenced to 20 years in prison, with 10 years of parole ineligibility, and was released after serving 11 years and three months. The judge who sentenced William Coombs said of the victim: “Listening to Mrs. Coombs testify during the course of the trial was as close to hearing the voice of a murder victim I guess as is possible.”
Coombs appealed to Superior Court in 1998 to be transferred out of prison to an unspecified treatment facility, but a judge rebuffed him after quickly determining that Coombs simply had exhausted prison programs and wanted a change of scenery.
He was having an extramarital affair in 1992 when he lured his wife around 4:40 a.m. to the Kinnelon Mall under the pretext of wanting to show her something at the Pathmark Supermarket. In the parking lot, he nearly severed her head with a knife before grabbing her purse and driving away. The victim crawled and staggered to the all-night Pathmark where employees, including one with medical training, kept her stable until emergency workers arrived.
Coombs had claimed at trial that he was suffering a “dissociative disorder” and did not recall the attempted murder.