DRUNK DRIVER: SEVEN YEARS FOR FATALITY

A 22-year-old Ocean County man was sentenced to seven years in state prison for killing a Middletown father of five in a 2011 Parkway accident, Monmouth County Prosecutor Peter Warshaw announced Friday.

Eric Periera, of Jackson Township, must serve close to six years of that term before becoming eligible for parole after he pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and other charges in connection with the April, 2011 crash.

Kevin Donnelly, a 43-year-old copy editor at the Staten Island Advance, died in the crash, which occurred when a car driven by Pereira struck the rear of Donnelly’s minivan around 11 p.m. in the southbound local lanes near mile marker 120.

Here’s the full announcement from Warshaw:

On June 15, 2012, Eric Pereira, 22, of Jackson, New Jersey was sentenced to a seven year State Prison term for the crimes of second degree Vehicular Homicide, three counts of third degree Assault By Auto and a motor vehicle summons for Driving While Intoxicated.

These charges resulted from a fatal crash on the Garden State Parkway in Aberdeen Township that resulted in one death and serious injuries to three others. The sentence was imposed by Monmouth County Superior Court Judge John T. Mullaney. Pursuant to the “No Early Release Act,” Judge Mullaney ordered that Pereira must serve 85% of that sentence, or approximately 5 years and 11 months, before he becomes eligible for release on parole.

Pereira plead guilty on March 26, 2012, pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement that was supported by the victim’s family and the survivors of the crash.

A joint investigation conducted by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the New Jersey State Police revealed that during the afternoon and evening of April 2, 2011, Pereira, then 20 years of age, was at a wedding reception at the Rockleigh Country Club, Rockleigh, New Jersey. Pereira had been working at that event as a photographer’s assistant, arriving at approximately 1:30 p.m. Although he was underage, working and not a guest at the event, Pereira began drinking several Jack Daniels and coca cola cocktails at the reception. While there, Pereira also sent several text messages from his cell phone to a friend in which he admitted being intoxicated.

Pereira left the wedding reception at approximately 9:30 p.m., and began the roughly 80 mile, approximately 1 hour and 55 minute, return trip from the Rockleigh County Club to his home in Jackson.

During his drive home southbound along the Garden State Parkway, Pereira was observed driving his Chevrolet Cobalt sedan aggressively, speeding and tailgating other vehicles. One motorist telephoned an emergency 911 dispatcher to report Pereira’s erratic and dangerous driving. Thereafter, while in the vicinity of Milepost 120 in Aberdeen Township, Pereira drove his vehicle at a very high rate of speed from the far left (fast) lane of the Parkway, across three lanes of traffic into the far right (slow) lane and struck the rear bumper of a Ford Freestar van that was being driven by the decedent, Kevin Donnelly of Middletown. Investigation revealed that Pereira was traveling at between 85 and 92 miles per hour one second prior to striking Mr. Donnelly’s vehicle; the speed limit on the roadway is 65 mile per hour.

The decedent, Kevin Donnelly, a 43-year-old father of five, had been returning to Middletown from a friend’s surprise birthday party with two other passengers in his vehicle. As a result of the impact to the back of his vehicle, Mr. Donnelly lost control of his van, causing it to careen across the three lanes of travel, and flip over a guard rail separating the local and express lanes of the Parkway. The van overturned into the express lane, landing upside down upon its roof where it was struck by a Toyota Sienna traveling southbound in the express lanes, being driven by a 49 year old Toms River man.

As a result of the crash, Kevin Donnelly, the driver of the minivan, was pronounced dead at the scene as a result of traumatic head and neck injuries. Donnelly’s front seat passenger, his fiancée Erin Small, 42 of Keansburg, suffered a laceration to her liver and injuries to her neck and body, requiring hospitalization at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital.

Ken Mackenzie, the rear seat passenger in the van, suffered lacerations to his head as well as injuries to his spine and neck requiring emergency medical treatment. Keith Welge, the driver of the Toyota Sienna, received treatment at the Morristown Medical Center for knee and shoulder injuries.

While the decedent Kevin Donnelly and the other victims were being extricated from the van, Pereira approached several motorists who had stopped at the crash scene, and asked to be driven away and flee the area. Pereira was thereafter arrested at the scene. Subsequent investigation revealed that his blood alcohol at the time of the crash was between 0.14-0.16%, or nearly twice the legal limit required to prove intoxication for those who have reached 21 years of age.

Prosecutor Peter E. Warshaw, Jr. credited the cooperative efforts of the New Jersey State Police and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office for the successful prosecution of the defendant.

Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Michael J. Wojciechowski prosecuted the case for the State. Pereira was represented by Mitchell J. Ansell, Esq. of Ocean Township, N.J.

Release: June 15, 2012

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