MAYS LANDING — A Superior Court judge dismissed the vehicular homicide indictment against a man accused of killing an Egg Harbor Township teen in a hit-and-run last year, saying the state failed to give a full view of the evidence, including that the victim swerved into the car's path.
William Michael Simkins, 31, also of the township, was driving after three teens on bicycles after he saw them vandalize his car at about 2:20 a.m. Sept. 6. During the chase, one of the boys — Jacob Broschard, 16 — was struck and thrown from his bike. He died at the scene.
Simkins fled. He turned himself in at the police station about two hours later.
A grand jury indicted Simkins on second-degree vehicular homicide in February, but defense attorney Lou Barbone argued Wednesday that the jurors should have been given more information about how the crash occurred, including that the car was going straight and the bicycle swerved into its path.
This information was crucial in determining whether Simkins acted recklessly, Superior Court Judge Michael Donio said in granting the motion to dismiss. Recklessness is an element of vehicular homicide.
Recklessness, under the law, means consciously disregarding a substantial or justifiable risk of death, the judge said. Negligence — which would not constitute the homicide charge — states only that the defendant "should be aware of a substantial or justifiable risk."
Because there is such a "fine line" between the two, Donio ruled the grand jury did not have enough evidence to render an informed decision.
The judge noted that the dismissal does not end the case, and that the state can represent the case to the grand jury, including all of the relevant information.
Several of Broschard's family and friends attended Wednesday’s hearing. His mother cried silently through most of the proceedings. She stayed composed inside the courtroom after Donio made his decision, but could be heard wailing as she was taken into a private conference room.
Donio laid out the parts of the case both sides agree upon in court Tuesday.
Earlier that night, Broschard and his two friends had been drinking vodka, smoking pot and "there was some, what I believe to be horseplay that was going on," Donio said.
That included one of the boys kicking off the sideview mirror of Simkins' parked car. Simkins, who was doing work inside his garage, got in his car "like a bat out of hell," a neighbor told the grand jury, and chased after them.
As the boys and Simkins traveled east on Jerome Avenue toward Robert Best Road, Broshcard — who was riding close to the curb on the right side — veered left to go around a parked car. That's when the left side of his bike hit the passenger side of Simkins' car. He was tossed more than 100 feet.
"It was horrible what happened to the victim at that point," Donio said, adding that further details were not necessary.
But in presenting the case before the grand jury, Assistant Prosecutor Diane Ruberton never asked Sgt. Kevin Hincks, who testified from the prosecutor's Fatal Collision Unit, where the impact took place or how close Simkins was when Broschard veered out, to see if the defendant would have had adequate time to avoid the teen.
"I can't for the life of me figure out why those additional two or three questions were not asked," Donio said. "I can't figure it out."
He dismissed the indictment without prejudice, meaning the case can go before another grand jury, who then could indict.
Outside the courtroom, Ruberton said she would have to confer with the prosecutor, but that the case would likely be re-presented.
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