Intoxicated Out-of-state Driver Charged Vehicular Homicide in Fatal Cape May County Car Crash

Accidents happen, that’s a fact of life. But fatal automobile accidents involving alcohol or drugs is another matter altogether. Last weekend, a 37-year-old man allegedly driving drunk hit a New Jersey family traveling on State Highway Route 9 near the intersection of Bennett’s Crossing in Cape May County, killing a husband and father of three.

As a New Jersey DWI defense attorney, I have represented individuals caught up in similar accidents. Fatal auto accidents involving drug or alcohol intoxication receive very close scrutiny by law enforcement authorities. Having a qualified drunk driving defense lawyer working for you is essential in cases like this one. The facts of this particular case are difficult to dispute.

According to police reports, around 8:30 in the evening of September 5, John J. Lawless from Philadelphia was driving in the northbound lane of Route 9 approaching Bennett’s Crossing in Lower Township, NJ. News accounts said that his car apparently failed to follow the slight curve in the road. Entering the southbound lane, Lawless struck, almost head-on, an oncoming vehicle driven by 50-year-old Fredrick H. Shelton.

Shelton’s car, which was also carrying his wife and their 13-year-old daughter, was struck in the front driver’s side, near the front tire. The force of the impact caused Shelton’s car to spin partially into the Bennett’s Crossing intersection where the vehicle came to rest facing north in the southbound lane of travel. Meanwhile, Lawless’ vehicle continued past the intersection and came to rest facing westbound straddling the northbound and southbound lanes.

Paramedics arriving on the scene attempted to revive Shelton using CPR, however they were unsuccessful and the man was pronounced dead not long after. The man’s wife, Sheri Shelton, was transported by the Lower Township Rescue Squad to the Atlantic City Regional Trauma Center where she was listed in critical condition following emergency surgery.

The Shelton’s 13-year-old daughter was initially transported by the Lower Township Rescue Squad to Cape Regional Medical Center where she was stabilized then air lifted to Cooper Hospital in Camden New Jersey.

According to reports, the suspect had a strong odor of alcoholic beverage on his breath. He was transported to Atlantic City Regional Trauma Center and admitted to the hospital for injuries sustained in the accident. Lower Township Police Officers proceeded to Atlantic City Regional Trauma Center and retrieved blood samples from Lawless as part of the investigation.

According to new reports, Lawless’ Pennsylvania driver’s license has been suspended since 2001 and he had multiple arrests for driving while intoxicated in that state. Police have charged Lawless with one count of death by auto and two counts of assault with a motor vehicle. In addition, he has been charged with DWI, operating a motor vehicle with a suspended drivers license, reckless driving, and failure to maintain a single lane.

Man charged with DUI, vehicular homicide, ABCLocal.com, September 14, 2009