By JOHN T. WARD
A Middletown man is facing 14 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to a one-day spree of violence last March that included attacks on his former girlfriend and two police officers, a car chase and crash, the Monmouth County Prosecutor announced Monday.
According to Acting Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni, the charges against 38-year-old Gregory B. Canova stem from incidents that began the morning of March 24, when Sea Girt Police officers answered a 911 call originating from the intersection of State Highway 71 and Boston Boulevard.
Here’s the prosecutor’s account of what happened:
Responding police determined that a car traveling southbound on Highway 71, operated by a 27 year-old female, had been intentionally struck by another car. The woman identified Canova as the operator of the car, a former boyfriend and the father of her one-year old daughter.
Further investigation revealed that, earlier that same morning, the same woman had been at a motel in Wall Township with Canova when he wrapped a belt and a phone charger cord around her neck and choked her in front of their daughter. The woman was able to flee from the motel room with her daughter and attempted to drive away from Canova.
Thereafter, Canova began to chase the woman in his car and, on Highway 71 in Sea Girt, he drove next to the passenger side of the woman’s car and slammed into it, causing the woman’s car to spin out of control. Passing motorists stopped to assist the woman while Canova fled the scene. Neither the woman nor her daughter, who was strapped in a child seat in the backseat of the car, was injured as a result of the crash.
Sea Girt police notified surrounding towns to be on the lookout for Canova’s car and, later that morning, a Middletown Township police officer spotted Canova’s car in the driveway of his residence. That officer attempted to arrest Canova after seeing him exit his car, but Canova responded by engaging him in a violent struggle. When the officer tried to stop Canova from driving away, Canova struck the officer with his car and dragged him several feet. When the officer was able to free himself from the car, Canova fled from the area.
A Middletown police officer responding as backup spotted Canova driving recklessly from the area where the first officer had attempted to arrest him. This second officer attempted to stop Canova’s car, but Canova fled from the officer into another Middletown neighborhood. Canova then made a U-turn and drove head-on at the pursuing officer, colliding with the front of the officer’s car. Once again, Canova fled in his car while the officer and another responding officer continued to pursue him. Ultimately, Canova turned onto a dead-end street, drove up onto the curb in an attempt to turn around, and became stuck on the curb and front lawn of one of the houses on the street. As officers tried to pull Canova from his car, he continued to violently struggle with them but was ultimately placed under arrest. Once the officers placed him in the back of a patrol car, Canova kicked out the window of the car.
Both officers were treated for injuries at Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank.
Canova pleaded guilty to second degree aggravated assault and second degree aggravated assault by eluding before Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Reisner in Freehold.Under the terms of the plea, the prosecutor’s office will recommend consecutive seven-year terms for each charge, according to the announcement. Sentencing is scheduled for January 18. Meantime, Canova is being held on a cash-only bail of $882,500.
The plea agreement also calls for the Prosecutor’s Office to recommend a concurrent three-year sentence on an unrelated third-degree charge of terroristic threats.