MAYS LANDING — An Egg Harbor Township man cleared of vehicular homicide was sentenced to 7½ years in prison Tuesday for leaving the scene of a 2010 crash that killed a teen.
William Simkins, 33, kept going after fatally striking Jacob Broschard, 16, as the teen and two friends biked down Jerome Avenue in the township in the early morning hours of Sept. 6, 2010. Simkins turned himself in to police hours later.
"I wasn't trying to hurt anyone that night," Simkins told the judge. "I wasn't chasing."
But those filling the courtroom Tuesday wearing "Justice for Jake" shirts do not believe it was a coincidence that Simkins struck Broschard moments after one of the three teens kicked off the then-parked car's side-view mirror.
"That's really, really tough to swallow," Jake's father, LeRoy Broschard, told the judge. "Real tough to swallow."
The state's case alleged Simkins got into his mother's car and chased down the teens. But the defense said Simkins was unaware of the vandalism when he got into his mother's car at about 2:20 that morning, heading to get some cigarettes.
The jury acquitted him of vehicular homicide.
Mimi Broschard told the court that she believes if the jury was allowed to know Simkins' criminal history — which included a weapons charge more than 10 years ago and a spot on the domestic violence registry — they would have convicted him on the vehicular homicide charge in addition to the count of leaving the scene of a fatal crash.
"The worst part is he was stone cold sober," she said before sentencing. "Still he chose to do the most inhumane thing you could do. ... He left our boy laying in the road."
Mimi Broschard then asked Simkins to look her in the face as she addressed him.
"I know the kind of man you are," she told him. "The decision you made that night caused my son to lose his life over a mirror. A mirror."
Letters to the court by Simkins' supporters tell the story of a man who has taken responsibility for four adopted sons and five nieces and nephews. A man who became a father figure to those without fathers in their lives. His absence has left the children with problems in school and one son is not using drugs, said his girlfriend, Misty Henderson.
But one day, his absence will end, Jake's older sister, Desirae Broschard, said: "My brother is never coming home."
"There is nothing he can do to make up for the 50 or 60 years he took from my brother," she said as several people in the audience wept loudly. "And not only what he stole from my brother, but what he stole from everyone else."
Superior Court Judge Michael Donio said he found the letters praising Simkins a “puzzling” contrast to the man with several juvenile arrests and jail time as an adult for violating probation.
Anyone shown both the criminal history and the letters would think "you cannot possibly be talking about the same person," Donio said. "Who is the real William Simkins? I don't know."
Only two people really know what happened that night, he said. One is gone; the other is Simkins.
But for Jake Broschard's family and friends, they know only that he is gone.
"I used to see my brother every day, now if I want to see him I have to go to his grave," younger sister Danie Broschard said. "I used to talk to him face-to-face and now I have to talk to his headstone."
Simkins has 99 days of time served. The sentence is not under the No Early Release Act, so it was not clear exactly how much more time he will have to serve. Upon his release, he will lose his driver's license for two years.
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