Amy Gladeck and her 82-year-old mother, Susan, came to South Jersey from the Washington, DC area so her mother could have heart surgery at a local hospital. On February 25, while driving her mother home after a date and shopping, Gladeck drove cautiously on Lambs Road because she was unfamiliar with the canton of Mantua.
It didn’t help. A car at Tyler Mill Road intersection did not yield at the stop sign and instead drove straight in the path of his vehicle. She hit the brakes.
“I remember thinking for every millisecond, you know, maybe I pulled over in time and they’ll just slide past us.” And that didn’t happen, ”Gladeck recalls. “It was as if a bomb had exploded in our car. And I remember thinking, “Oh my God, my mother is never going to survive this. “
Susan Gladeck survived her injuries during what her daughters say was an excruciating 10-day period, but she died at Cooper University Hospital in Camden on March 8. the doctor said the cause of her death was her broken neck.
Her daughters are now fighting for what they say is fair: that the 21-year-old woman, according to police, is either behind the crash or charged with homicide and driving, or at least of some sort. criminal charge. Instead, she faces three minor motor vehicle offenses for breaking the stop sign, failing to give in and reckless driving. The only charge against police, a car assault, was dismissed earlier this month at the request of the Gloucester County District Attorney’s office, the court said.
The sisters, Amy Gladeck and Lena Dickinson, said an assistant prosecutor told them she couldn’t prove the driver was reckless, which is required for death or car assault charges. A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office said the motor vehicle offenses the woman faces are appropriate.
So now the sisters are doing their own investigation, to try to provide more evidence.
They hope to collect eyewitness statements, analyze the other car’s ‘black box’ or event data recorder, and get the driver’s cell phone tapes to see if she was distracted when the accident happened. is produced. All three are things Amy Gladeck believes the police didn’t do, based on her conversations with the lead investigator. The accident report and court documents also do not mention the above evidence. (Gladeck said police told him they spoke with the only passenger in the 21-year-old’s car.)
Ten days ago, they took one step closer to their goal. A judge in the pending civil action against GEICO, the woman’s insurance company, has ruled that Gladeck’s lawyer can access the data from the car’s black box recorder. The woman’s civil attorney, Stephen Rudolph, opposed the request, writing that there is “a potential that information downloaded from the vehicle could be used against her” if she faces criminal charges.
The sisters then hope they can force the disclosure of her cell phone records and that witnesses who saw the crash and helped afterwards will come forward to make statements to authorities about what happened.
“We thought if we could get witness statements, maybe the preponderance of all that evidence, maybe it would force them to take what happened to our mother seriously,” Gladeck said.
They mainly try to determine a gap. Gladeck said the other car “passed” the stop sign at high speed, while the driver told police she stopped and then tried to cross Lambs Road because she thought she had time to do it.
Mantua Police Chief Darren E. While declined to go into details of the crash investigation, but noted that the law requires drivers not only to stop at a traffic sign. stop, but give way to oncoming vehicles.
Matthew Robinson, who represents the 21-year-old in city court, declined to comment for the story, and the lawyer she retained in the civil case did not return a request for comment.
Court and police records show the young woman from Bridgeton – whom NJ Advance Media does not name because she now only faces minor traffic violations – has been cited in the past for using a cell phone while driving, reckless driving that caused an accident in 2017 and ignoring a stop sign. But all charges related to the incidents were dismissed at the request of city prosecutors.
Gladeck said she wondered if if those courts had imposed a penalty on the young driver, it might have encouraged her to drive more safely in the future. “Maybe she would have learned something from it,” she said.
A delayed investigation
Gladeck and Dickinson ask anyone who witnessed the crash to contact the police or their lawyer to describe what they saw that night. Gladeck said it was quite a scene – the two vehicles were totaled and the other woman’s vehicle overturned, landing on a bank near the road.
Among the witnesses she remembers was a driver stopped on Tyler Mill Road at the intersection, and a man she said was a firefighter or paramedic, who helped her out of their vehicle, as well. than the other driver and his passenger. Another witness was a young woman, she said.
When a fatal accident occurs, police usually do a full reconstruction of the accident, which can mean calling specialist investigators to the scene and closing the road for hours. But Gladeck believes the police didn’t realize how serious her mother’s injuries were because it didn’t happen. She said the investigating officer told her that no witnesses were at the scene when she arrived, but she recalls several witnesses who left after authorities arrived.
After his mother’s death, Gladeck said he asked Mantua police to investigate further. She said they were okay with it but told him that some evidence such as skid marks might not be worth much considering the time that had passed. The senior officer also told her that he had not taken the other driver’s field field sobriety test because she was showing no signs of drunkenness, Gladeck said.
Two days later, on March 10, police in Mantua filed a charge of auto assault in the fourth degree, a law applicable when a person drives recklessly and causes grievous bodily harm. Gladeck and her sister contacted the DA’s office to find out why this was not what they thought was a more appropriate charge – dead in car, given that their mother is deceased – and they got an interview with a deputy prosecutor.
“They gave us an hour of their time, but the bottom line was that not only were they not going to increase the car loads to death, they weren’t even going. [pursue] assault by automobile charges, ”Gladeck said.
Several criminal lawyers have told NJ Advance Media that it can be difficult to prove recklessness – something necessary to prove death or assault by car – in a case involving the execution of a stop sign, because it is often done without knowing it. Maybe it’s careless, they said, recklessness requires the driver to “consciously ignore a substantial and unjustifiable risk” of injury or death.
In light of this, the version of events the woman recounted to police – that she pulled up at the stop sign and tried to cross even though she saw the oncoming vehicle – is in fact closer to meeting the standard of recklessness than if she just didn’t see the stop sign and unknowingly executed it, said Robert Bianchi, a former Morris County district attorney.
For Gladeck, the severity of the accident shows that the woman was driving at high speed, and she hopes the car’s event data logger will back it up. A date for downloading the information from the black box has not been set.
Her attorney, Mark Dewland, is also examining why the woman had her past motor vehicle offenses dismissed by various Bridgeton and Cumberland-Salem Municipal Regional Court prosecutors – which he called “Very unusual model which raises legitimate questions”. “
Several attorneys who practice in municipal court have said that it is somewhat unusual to see several motor vehicle offenses dismissed by “prosecutor’s discretion” one after another, but it could happen for good reason. .
In the case of this woman, court records show that the 2018 stop sign violation was dismissed when the ticket agent did not appear in court. A court official said the records did not indicate why a 2019 cell phone use offense was dismissed.
Court records show the 2017 reckless driving fine – issued when she turned left in front of an oncoming car and caused an accident in Upper Deerfield when she was 17, according to the report of accident – was dismissed when the victim decided not to testify. However, Dewland said he tracked down the victim, who testified under oath that he went to court several times to participate in the case and never refused to testify.
Gladeck and Dickinson are still hoping that they can use new evidence to convince the DA’s office to reconsider the case and lay new charges against the other driver, however unorthodox that may be.
When Gladeck arrived in South Jersey it was to undergo life-saving heart surgery for her mother, a retired social worker, church organist and choir director who taught piano and voice for 40 years. Instead, she and her sister ended up burying their mother and embarked on an investigation that they don’t think anyone else will do right.
“I know a lot of people go through worse things and they don’t get justice, they don’t get satisfaction. I understand, ”Gladeck said. “But we are not yet at the point where we resign ourselves to this. We just have to try and try and try until we know that there is nothing more we can do.
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