Charges dismissed in 2014 crash that killed three teens
“Nobody wins,” Melissa Rodriguez sobbed after she was freed from charges of vehicular homicide in a 2014 crash that killed three teens in Pleasantville.
Rodriguez was an 18-year-old driver on a provisional license when she overcompensated on a turn along Franklin Boulevard and crashed head-on into a bus.
Her defense attorney said it was a tragic accident.
But the state and families of the victims believed it was recklessness that led to the crash.
On Friday, Superior Court Judge Patricia Wild found that the grand jury presentation was flawed, agreeing with defense attorney Steve Scheffler’s argument that the possibility that Rodriguez may have looked at her cell phone did not violate the state’s cell phone statute nor rise to the requirement of recklessness required to find vehicular homicide or death by auto charges.
Kira Strider, 14, of Pleasantville, and Tevin Campbell, 18, of Absecon, died at the scene. Strider’s 16-year-old best friend, Amber Fernandez, died later at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center.
“My daughter was killed,” Fernandez’s mother screamed, shocked by the judge’s decision.
Rodriguez also broke down in sobs after the dismissal.
After the victims’ families were led from the courtroom, she cried: “I’m not a murderer. I’m not happy about this. Nobody wins.”
“It just hurts that we have to grieve all over again,” Latoya Campbell said of her brother’s death. “I never wanted this young lady to do life but at least to feel the pain all of us have to relive.”
Scheffler commended the judge for her thorough review of the case.
“I’m really, really amazed at how thoroughly Judge Wild reviewed the issue, reviewed the law and applied the law,” he said.
The state can re-present the case to another grand jury, if it chooses.
The acting prosecutor did not immediately comment on that.
Scheffler, however, said he believed the state presented its strongest evidence in the now-rejected presentation.