MAYS LANDING — Three Egg Harbor Township teenagers were drinking and smoking marijuana before they went on a bike ride in 2010 that turned deadly for one, jurors learned Tuesday as William Simkins’ vehicular homicide trial began.
But whether that was a factor in the crash will be for them to decide.
Simkins Jr., 33, allegedly chased the teens down in his car Sept. 6, 2010, fatally striking Jacob Broschard.
Broschard, 16, was thrown onto Simkins’ windshield and landed 152 feet away, where he was pronounced dead at about 2:20 a.m. Simkins left the scene, turning himself into police two hours later.
The defense has said Broschard veered into Simkins’ path as the teen biked around a parked car.
Before opening statements, the jurors were told that there were certain things both sides agree on: Broschard’s blood-alcohol content was .044 and tested positive for marijuana at the time of his death. Broschard’s friend Brian Wagner, now 16, testified that he and four others had been drinking vodka with a mix earlier that night, and also shared one marijuana cigarette.
“Kids do stupid things,” acting First Assistant Prosecutor Diane Ruberton told the jurors. “The consequence has to be appropriate to what the child did wrong.”
But in this instance, the punishment was death, she said.
Simkins “took it upon himself to be the judge and jury for the stupid thing Jake Broschard did.”
“That Bill Simkins set out to punish a child by killing him is just absurd,” defense attorney Lou Barbone told the jurors.
Instead, he said Simkins was a good guy who had earlier been doing some work for his girlfriend at her house and then come to his mother’s — where he had been staying — to do some work for her. He was in the garage, their neighborhood quiet “until the kids.”
Broschard, Wagner and Ryan Blevin, then 16, went biking down Royal Avenue.
Wagner says he was kicking leaf bags left on curbs. Blevin said he put out his foot as he passed cars, kicking sideview mirrors. When he went by Simkins’ mother’s home, he kicked the car parked there. He said he thought the mirror part came off.
Blevin said he didn’t see anyone, but behind him Broschard and Wagner yelled for him to go.
Wagner said he saw a figure standing in the garage door, just a shadow backed by light. He yelled for his friends to run.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said.
Wagner admitted during cross-examination he never saw Simkins run to his car, but only walk down the drive. He later saw headlights.
Barbone indicated there is no evidence that Simkins was pursuing the teens when he left his mother’s home.
“In the mind of Brian (Wagner), he thinks he’s been found out,” Barbone told the jurors during his opening.
Neighbor Nicoletta Gonzalez testified she saw a male figure run from the garage to the car and then drive off “like a bat out of hell.”
The teens turned left onto Jerome Avenue toward Robert Best Road. Broschard never made it to the intersection.
Neither Blevin nor Wagner knew what happened to their friend until much later. Wagner said he heard something, but thought it was a trash can being hit.
When he got back home, neither of his friends was there, so he called their cell phones. Only Blevin picked up. He had been hiding in the woods. Once the two were reunited, they went looking for Broschard.
They saw police and an ambulance.
When they turned back home, Wagner’s father and cousin were there. Another cousin had been the first officer on the scene. The boys were then driven to the area.
They didn’t see Broschard, only a sheet over what they knew was a body.
“At that point, did you know Jake was gone?” Ruberton asked Blevin.
“Yes,” he replied.
“What did you do?”
Burlington County Medical Examiner Ian Hood, who was filling in for Atlantic County when Broschard was killed, said the injuries were extensive. While the teen had severe road rash and some fractured bones, it was significant head injuries that killed him.
Injuries, he said, that would not have been prevented had the teen been wearing a helmet.
He said the nature of the injuries indicated “highway speeds,” not those just from a bike. He estimated the car was going at least 40 miles per hour.
The speed limit on the street is 25 mph. When asked by Barbone if the car could have been going 30, Hood said it was possible.
The state will continue presenting witnesses this morning before Superior Court Judge Michael Donio.
The trial is expected to last about two weeks.
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