• Lynda Cohen

Driver found guilty of vehicular homicide in 2014 crash that killed teen

Updated: Jan 14

The fatal 2014 crash that killed a Linwood teen was not accident, the prosecutor told jurors Monday. “It was a crime.” It took the jurors less than two hours of deliberations to agree. Nicholas Garreffi was found guilty of vehicular homicide and three counts of assault by auto in the Aug. 30, 2014 crash. Garreffi was on alprazolam – more commonly known as Xanax – when he crossed the center lane of Route 40 in Hamilton Township, side-swiping a box truck and then crashing into a car with five teenage girls headed to a charity soccer tournament. Four of the girls were injured in the crash, including Aisling Cooke, a 14-year-old promising soccer star who was heading into freshman year at Mainland Regional High School. She died four days later. Defense attorney Lou Barbone said it was human error that sent Garreffi’s truck into the path of the girls. The construction worker was distracted looking for a phone number to get in touch with a client, he said. “It happens to all of us,” he said driving distracted. But most drivers realize their mistake and correct it, Assistant Prosecutor Rick McKelvey said during his closing argument Monday. Garreffi never hit his brakes as he crossed the center lane with one car swerving out of his way. No brakes as he sideswiped a box truck or as he struck the rear driver’s side of the car where Cooke was sitting. The truck didn’t stop until it struck a tree and caught fire. Garreffi got out unharmed. Barbone argued that the state offered no real evidence that drugs played a role, and instructed jurors to use their own life experience in finding the truth. Garreffi was taken into custody immediately after the verdict was read. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 22, Superior Court John Rauh.

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