hance-rd-houseThe vacant home on Hance Road where a Middletown teenager died Friday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)


Authorities have confirmed the death of a Middletown teenager who fell off the roof of a vacant Fair Haven house Friday night.

But few details are available because the incident remains under investigation, according to Peter Warshaw, of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, which is handling the case.

Zachary Buttler, of the Belford section of Middletown, died at 10:31p Friday, about two hours after the fall from the roof, Warshaw said.

Warshaw said Buttler, who was with a group of teenagers at the time, climbed onto the roof of 1 Hance Road, and Fair Haven police responded to the scene after the fall.

What the group of teens was doing at the house is unclear, although neighbors say the dead end that overlooks the Navesink River is a popular hangout. Warshaw could not comment on that rumor.

“What I know is that the homeowner’s weren’t there,” he said. Asked whether he knew if the teenagers were in the house, Warshaw said, “I don’t believe they were.”

The home is listed in tax records as belonging to Westwind Partners LLC of Scarsdale, N.Y.

One Hance resident who didn’t want to be identified said the home had been rented for the summer, but has been vacant since Labor Day. She also said kids hang out in that area often, and she often sees broken glass at the end of the street.

Another woman, whose children and grandchildren live on nearby Cooney Terrace, said she’s also heard that area is popular for teenagers.

“I’ve been told that,” she said. “Not my grandchildren. Their parents told them to stay away.”

According to Buttler’s obituary in today’s Asbury Park Press, he was involved in Middletown’s Police Explorer Program and aspired to pursue a career in civil service.

Although there was no direct indication of alcohol or drugs at the scene, Warshaw said the medical examiner has ordered a toxicology test.

The Prosecutor’s Office continues to investigate the incident.