Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on September 8, 2023, Kevin Valverde-Cruz, 21, of Jackson, was sentenced by the Honorable Dina M. Vicari, J.S.C., to five years New Jersey State Prison (NJSP), as a result of his previously entered guilty plea to Aggravated Assault in connection with an incident that occurred on October 18, 2022, in Lakewood Township. Additionally, Judge Vicari sentenced Valverde-Cruz to five years NJSP, as a result of his previously entered guilty plea to Eluding in connection with the same incident. The sentences will run concurrently. Valverde-Cruz pled guilty to both charges before the Honorable Linda G. Baxter, J.S.C. (retired and serving on recall), on July 12, 2023.
On October 18, 2022, Detectives from the Lakewood Township Police Department observed a white Jeep Grand Cherokee traveling at a high rate of speed, and attempted to effectuate a motor vehicle stop. The operator of the vehicle failed to stop and the pursuit was ultimately terminated on the Garden State Parkway due to public safety concerns. Later that evening, the same vehicle – confirmed by the vehicle’s New Jersey registration number from the first encounter – was located on the shoulder of the westbound lane of Central Avenue in Lakewood. Detectives approached the vehicle and made contact with its operator. The operator of the vehicle did not comply with the Detectives commands, put the vehicle in reverse, and struck the Detectives’ vehicle. The operator of the vehicle abruptly turned back into the roadway – almost striking the Detectives – and fled the area.
An investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit, Lakewood Township Police Department Detective Bureau, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, determined that Valverde-Cruz was the operator of the subject Jeep Grand Cherokee on October 18, 2022.
On January 10, 2023, the Ocean County Regional SWAT executed a court authorized search warrant on Valverde-Cruz’s residence in Jackson Township. Valverde-Cruz was taken into custody without incident, and processed at Lakewood Township Police Headquarters. The white Jeep Grand Cherokee was also located at the residence in Jackson Township. Valverde-Cruz was transported to the Ocean County Jail, and subsequently released as a consequence of New Jersey Bail Reform.
Prosecutor Billhimer acknowledges the diligent efforts of Assistant Prosecutor Madeline Buczynski who is handling the case on behalf of the State, and commends the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotics Strike Force, Lakewood Township Police Department Detective Bureau, Lakewood Township Police Department Patrol Division, Jackson Township Police Department, Howell Township Police Department, Ocean County Regional SWAT, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, for their collaborative efforts in connection with this investigation leading to Valverde-Cruz’s guilty pleas, and now his state prison sentence.