Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on July 27, 2022, Mordechai Berkowitz, 20, of Lakewood, was charged with Aggravated Manslaughter in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4a(1); Vehicular Homicide in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5a; Strict Liability Vehicular Homicide in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5.3a; Aggravated Assault in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(1); and Assault by Auto in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1c(2), all in connection with a motor vehicle crash that occurred in Lakewood Township on July 22, 2022, resulting in the death of Juana Lopez-Hernandez, 44, a citizen of Mexico. Berkowitz was also charged with the motor vehicle offenses of Driving While Intoxicated in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50; Reckless Driving in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-96; Speeding in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-98; and Failure to Maintain Lane in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-88, relative to the same incident.
On July 22, 2022, at approximately 8:20 p.m., Officers from the Lakewood Township Police Department responded to the area of South Lake Drive and East Lake Park Drive for a report of a motor vehicle crash with serious injuries. Subsequent investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Vehicular Homicide Unit and Lakewood Township Police Department determined that a 2018 Chevrolet Impala – operated by Berkowitz – was headed eastbound on South Lake Drive when it crossed over the double yellow and collided head-on with a 2017 Toyota Rav4, operated by Maria Flores-Moreno, 35, of Jackson, and occupied by front-seat passenger, Ms. Lopez-Hernandez.
Ms. Flores-Moreno was transported to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune for treatment of the injuries she suffered in the crash, and is presently listed in stable condition. Ms. Lopez-Hernandez was transported to Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus in Lakewood, where she was pronounced deceased.
Berkowitz was also transported to Jersey Shore University Medical Center for treatment of injuries he sustained in the crash. The initial draw of his blood at the hospital revealed that Berkowitz had a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .215 %. In the State of New Jersey, an operator of a motor vehicle is presumed to be over the legal limit for purposes of alcohol consumption where his/her BAC is .08 or greater.
Further investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Vehicular Homicide Unit revealed that the vehicle operated by Berkowitz was traveling in excess of 90 miles-per-hour at the time of the crash. The posted speed limit on the roadway is 35 miles-per-hour.
Berkowitz surrendered himself to the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office today, with his attorney present, to be formally served with the aforementioned charges. He was thereafter transported to the Ocean County Jail, where he is presently lodged pending a detention hearing.
Prosecutor Billhimer commends the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Vehicular Homicide Unit, Ocean County Victim Witness Advocacy Unit, Brick Township Police Department Traffic Safety Unit, Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, and Ocean County Medical Examiner’s Office, for their combined and cooperative efforts in connection with this investigation.
The charges referenced above are merely accusations and the press and public are reminded that all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.