The Collision Analysis and Reconstruction (CAR) Unit is responsible for the investigation of all fatal motor vehicle/vessel crashes that occur within Burlington County, as well as all serious motor vehicle crashes where the at-fault driver is suspected of engaging in criminally reckless conduct. The CAR Unit also investigates all police-involved motor vehicle crashes, including police pursuits resulting in injury.
The CAR Unit is presently operating in conjunction with the Major Crimes Unit (MCU). CAR Unit operations are carried out via the MCU chain of command. The CAR Unit is supervised by an assistant prosecutor who also supervises the Special Investigations Unit (SIU). MCU personnel are responsible for assisting the supervising assistant prosecutor with the investigation of CAR Unit cases and preparing same for trial. A Victim Witness Advocate is responsible for victim outreach which includes processing discovery requests pursuant to subpoenas and document requests pursuant to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).
In 2016, the CAR Unit investigated 129 fatal and serious motor vehicle crashes during the calendar year. Criminal charges, including Vehicular Homicide, Assault by Auto, Causing Death or Serious Injury While Suspended and Leaving the Scene of a Fatal/Serious Motor Vehicle Crash were filed in 19 cases.
SIGNIFICANT CASES DURING 2016
State v. Jose Rentas
On July 4, 2015, Jose Rentas was operating an ATV at a family gathering at Lake Ossewago located in Bass River Township. The defendant had a passenger on the back of the ATV. The investigation revealed that the defendant had ingested cocaine, marijuana and alcohol prior to driving the ATV. An analysis of a blood sample secured from the defendant revealed the presence of impairing levels of all three substances in his system at the time of the crash. The defendant collided head on with another ATV being operated by his niece (A.L.). The crash occurred as the two vehicles drove around a bend in the road toward each other at high rates of speed.
The defendant was seriously injured and his passenger suffered minor injuries. A.L. suffered fatal injuries while her passenger sustained a head injury. The defendant entered a plea of guilty to an accusation charging him with second-degree Vehicular Homicide and third-degree Assault by Auto. The defendant also pled guilty to Driving While Intoxicated. The defendant was sentenced to three years in New Jersey state prison with a period of parole ineligibility. The defendant’s driving privileges were also suspended for five years.
State v. Shawn Curry
During the early morning hours of November 10, 2015, New Jersey State Police troopers from the Moorestown Station responded to a report of a hit-and-run fatal pedestrian accident in the area of milepost 34 on the New Jersey Turnpike. The investigation revealed that an elderly male suffering with dementia had left a nearby hotel and wandered onto the turnpike in the vicinity of Exit 4. The male pedestrian was then struck by a vehicle operated by defendant Shawn Curry.
The defendant was identified after an extensive cooperative investigation by the BCPO and the New Jersey State Police. The investigation included the recovery of E-ZPass toll records as well as images of multiple vehicles and vehicle registrations that passed through local interchanges at or about the time of the crash. Once a specific vehicle was identified and additional E-ZPass records were secured from the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, troopers were able to track the movements of the vehicle along the turnpike before and after the crash. Troopers were ultimately able to track the rental truck that struck the pedestrian to a facility in New Brunswick and ultimately to the defendant.
The truck was processed for evidence and biological samples were recovered. A subsequent analysis and comparison of the samples demonstrated that the pedestrian was the source of the samples secured from the truck. The defendant ultimately admitted that he was involved in an accident on the Turnpike in the vicinity where the body of the pedestrian was located. The defendant, however, initially claimed that he thought he struck the rear of another tractor trailer before saying that did not know what he had hit. The defendant also said that he left the scene because he did not want to get a ticket from the police. The defendant said that he later heard a news broadcast about the fatal crash on the Turnpike. At that point, the defendant said that he knew he had struck a person but still failed to contact the police. A forensic analysis of the defendant’s cell phone demonstrated that he was in the vicinity of the crash scene at or about the time of the crash. The defendant entered a plea of guilty to an accusation charging him with second-degree Leaving the Scene of a Fatal Motor Vehicle Crash. The defendant also pled guilty to a motor vehicle summons charging him with Failing to Report an Accident. The defendant was sentenced to a period of probation conditioned upon a period of incarceration in the Burlington County Jail.