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 Insurance Fraud Unit. 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 2018, the CAR Unit investigated 118 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 PROSECUTED IN 2018
STATE v. SHADE COOPER
A former U.S. Air Force military police officer was sentenced on September 7, 2018 in Superior Court to ten years in New Jersey state prison with an 85% period of parole ineligibility for causing an automobile accident in Bordentown Township in late 2015 that killed two people, including her estranged husband. Shade Cooper, 28, of East Granby, Connecticut, was convicted in June 2018 by a jury on two counts of Reckless Manslaughter (Second Degree).
On December 2, 2015, the day of the fatal accident, Nicholas Cooper was visiting his children at Shade Cooper’s apartment on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. The State argued during the trial that Shade Cooper became angry when another woman – Jocelyn Redding – came to pick him up when the visit was over.
Shade Cooper followed them in her vehicle for approximately 10 miles, at one point striking the Hyundai Elantra being driven by Redding. As the pursuit continued at high speed, Redding was unable to negotiate a curve in the roadway near the intersection of Route 545 and Clifton Mills Road in Bordentown Township. Her vehicle entered the oncoming lane and was struck by a pickup truck. The impact sent Redding’s vehicle off the roadway into a wooded area, killing Nicholas Cooper, 26, and Redding, 23, of Hamilton Township, Mercer County.
The driver of the pickup truck was treated and released at an area hospital.
STATE v. JACOB GARRETT
Jacob T. Garrett, 25, pled guilty in July 2018 to Vehicular Homicide (First Degree) and Leaving the Scene of a Fatal Accident (Second Degree), and was sentenced on October 18, 2018 to fifteen years in state prison with an 85% period of parole ineligibility.
The investigation revealed that Garrett was traveling at a high rate of speed along Riverbank Road in Burlington City on January 14, 2018 when his vehicle struck a parked minivan before crashing through a fence and into the river near Wood Street. The front end of the car broke through the ice and became submerged.
Witnesses to the crash who rushed over to the scene indicated Garrett was already out of the vehicle by the time they arrived. “Help my girlfriend,” are the words witnesses reported Garrett as saying to them before he fled on foot.
Stephanie White, 23, of Burlington City, was found inside the sunken vehicle with her seat belt still fastened. She was extricated by emergency workers and transported to Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County in Willingboro, where she was pronounced dead.
City of Burlington Police Officer Charles Haney and his German shepherd K-9 partner Kobi tracked Garrett from the river to the Burlington Towne Center North light rail platform on West Broad Street. Police then had the train stopped at the Beverly/Edgewater Park station, where Garrett was taken into custody.
Garrett admitted that he had been drinking Fireball whiskey prior to the accident. His blood alcohol level was .17 four hours after the crash.
STATE V. ISIAH BUCHANAN
Isaiah Buchanan, 19, pled guilty in October 2018 to Aggravated Manslaughter (First Degree) and was sentenced on December 7, 2018 to fourteen years in New Jersey State Prison with an 85% period of parole ineligibility.
The investigation revealed that on November 15, 2017, Buchanan was driving a stolen BMW sedan along Route 130 south in Cinnaminson when the collision occurred near the intersection with Riverton Road. Kassidy Bush, a sophomore at Palmyra High School who was Buchanan’s passenger, was pronounced dead at the scene.
The investigation further revealed that the vehicle had previously been reported as stolen out of Cinnaminson. Cinnaminson police had attempted to execute a traffic stop on the vehicle prior to the collision, but Buchanan accelerated instead of pulling over.
Toxicology tests conducted on blood drawn from Buchanan indicated he had been using cocaine, marijuana and Xanax prior to the collision. Buchanan was a juvenile at the time, and the Prosecutor’s Office successfully argued that he be waived up from juvenile court and tried as an adult.