Man Charged with Vehicular Homicide
in Death of N.J. Turnpike Worker
Acting Camden County Prosecutor James P. Lynch and New Jersey
State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes reported that
a Maryland resident will be arraigned today on a Vehicular
Homicide charge stemming from the death of a New Jersey Turnpike
Authority worker injured in a February crash on the highway
in Bellmawr, N.J.
Stephen Harlee, 48, of Baltimore, is scheduled to be arraigned by Superior Court Judge Linda G. Baxter, Presiding Judge of the Criminal Division in Camden, at 2:45 p.m. today in Courtroom 33 of the Camden County Hall of Justice, 5th Street and Mickle Boulevard, Camden.
Harlee is charged in the death of Dirk W. Dudek, 49, of Beverly, N.J.
According to a Probable Cause Statement supporting the arrest warrant:
The defendant was driving a loaded tractor-trailer northbound in the left-hand lane of the Turnpike at approximately 1:47 p.m. on Feb. 27, 2006, when he lost control of the truck in the area of milepost 25.5. The truck crossed the right lane onto the right shoulder and struck the guardrail. The truck then skidded approximately 120 feet before striking a Turnpike Authority pickup truck parked along the guardrail.
The truck ignited in flames, spun and came to rest across the northbound lanes approximately 270 feet from the point of impact. Several motorists who observed the crash and stopped removed Dudek from the driver's seat. Emergency medical personnel arrived and rushed the victim to Cooper University Hospital in Camden, where he died the next day. Medical Examiner Gerald Feigin determined the victim died as a result of complications of a cervical spine fracture caused by the crash impact.
Several witnesses reported observing the tractor-trailer driving erratically prior to the crash, swerving across both lanes and both shoulders. One motorist used a mobile phone to call the "How's My Driving?" number on the truck to report the erratic operation just as the crash occurred.
New Jersey State Police Troopers responded to the scene. They reported that the defendant's eyes were bloodshot and watery and his speech was slow and slurred. At the State Police Moorestown Barracks, troopers observed the defendant asleep in a chair at approximately 3:30 p.m. and had difficulty waking him up. They later observed Harlee shivering and having difficulty maintaining his balance while walking and standing.
A blood sample taken from the defendant contained benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine.
Harlee was arrested yesterday in Maryland and agreed to be transported to Camden County.
Vehicular Homicide is a second-degree offense carrying a maximum 10 years in prison upon conviction.
All persons charged with criminal offenses are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
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