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Slain N.J. boy hoped to win top prize for sales

Edward P. Werner's friends say he was consumed by a singular dream: winning a set of walkie-talkies by outselling all other students in his school's fall fund-raising drive.

For about 21/2 hours Saturday afternoon, the 11-year-old walked the streets of a quiet and sunny neighborhood of young middle-class families with pleasant ranch homes and tidy shaded lawns, offering candy, wrapping paper and holiday gifts. Somewhere along the way, Eddie was murdered.His 60-pound body was found late Monday after a round-the-clock, two-day search, in a patch of woods behind four handsome new colonial homes on Woodlane Road. The authorities said he had been strangled.

A 15-year-old boy was charged Wednesday with the killing. The suspect's name was not released by authorities because he is a juvenile.

Eddie's family, neighbors, friends and strangers alike grieved over the death of a sixth-grader universally described as happy-go-lucky. They also struggled to come to grips with a murder that shattered a strong sense of safety and security in the northeastern corner of this sprawling 100-square-mile community in Ocean County.

Jerry Gross, a resident of the neighborhood for 30 years, struggled with tears as he looked at teams of detectives huddled in front of the Woodlane Road homes.

"The thought of a child being killed in those woods . . . " Gross said, pausing in midsentence to keep his composure. "He was just a baby."

Throughout the afternoon, friends went to the boy's home on Claridge Drive, across the woods from where his body was found, to console his parents, Edward and Valerie.

A neighbor, Joel Menzzopane, remarked that Eddie was the politest child he knew. "This time he was looking for walkie-talkies," Menzzopane said. "He was proud he was top dollar."

"He always addressed me as mister and it was always, `Yes, sir,"' Menzzopane said. "Kids aren't like that anymore."

Linda Lamm, mother of one of Eddie's classmates, remembered him as happy-go-lucky. "Some kids brood, some are depressed, Eddie was always silly and funny," Lamm said. "He was zany."

Neighbors and friends said Eddie was a fixture in his neighborhood, always riding his bicycle. They said he enjoyed hard rock music and often wore a baggy T-shirt bearing the name of his favorite band, Korn. They also noted his pride in his ability as a young salesman.