Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on December 1, 2023, the Honorable Guy P. Ryan, P.J.Cr.P., sentenced Ashley Watkins, 32, of Eatontown, to five years New Jersey State Prison, as a result of her previously entered guilty plea to Vehicular Homicide in connection with a motor vehicle crash that occurred in Brick Township on May 9, 2021, resulting in the death Nancy Penrod, 78, of Brick. The sentence is subject to the terms of the No Early Release Act (NERA), meaning that Watkins will be required to serve at least 85 percent of her sentence before she may be considered for parole eligibility. Watkins pled guilty to the charge before Judge Ryan on October 5, 2023. Additionally, on December 1, 2023, Watkins pled guilty to the motor vehicle offense of Driving While Intoxicated; as a consequence, Judge Ryan suspended Watkins’ driving privileges for a term of seven months.
On May 9, 2021, at approximately 9:45 a.m., Officers of the Brick Township Police Department responded to the intersection of Lanes Mill Road and Greenwood Loop for a serious motor vehicle crash with injuries. Through investigation, Officers determined that a 2011 Toyota Camry operated by Watkins was traveling southwest on Lanes Mill Road when she crossed the center line of the roadway and collided head-on with a 2014 Dodge Caravan, operated by Terry Penrod, 78, of Brick. Mr. Penrod’s wife, Nancy Penrod, was a passenger in the vehicle. Mr. Penrod sustained a broken leg and was transported to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune for treatment. Ms. Penrod was transported to Ocean Medical Center in Brick Township, where she succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced deceased.
Watkins sustained minor injuries from the crash, and was taken to Ocean Medical Center for treatment. While at Ocean Medical Center, Watkins consented to a draw of her blood. On June 2, 2021, the toxicology results of Watkins blood-draw revealed the presence of fentanyl, diphenhydramine (Benadryl), and marijuana in her blood stream, which rendered her unfit to safely operate a motor vehicle at the time of the crash. On June 4, 2021, Detectives from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Vehicular Homicide Unit and Officers from the Brick Township Police Department arrested Watkins at her residence without incident. Watkins was transported to the Ocean County Jail, and later released as a consequence of New Jersey Bail Reform.
Prosecutor Billhimer acknowledges the diligent efforts of Assistant Prosecutor Kimberly Carr who handled the case on behalf of the State, as well as the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Vehicular Homicide Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Victim Witness Advocacy Unit, Brick Township Police Department, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, for their cooperative efforts in connection with this investigation leading to Watkin’s arrest, guilty plea, and now her state prison sentence.