Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on February 16, 2022, Ashley Beams, 31, of Toms River Township, was charged with Aggravated Manslaughter in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4, Vehicular Homicide in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5, and Strict Liability Vehicular Homicide in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5.3, in connection with a motor vehicle crash that occurred in Toms River on February 8, 2022, resulting in the death of James Cruz, 62, of the Parlin section of Old Bridge Township. Beams 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; Failure to Maintain Lane in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-88; Careless Driving in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-97; and Failure to Wear a Seatbelt in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:3-76.2f.
On February 8, 2022, at approximately 10:30 p.m., Officers from the Toms River Township Police Department responded to the area of Bay Avenue for a report of a motor vehicle crash. Responding Officers determined that James Cruz had been struck by a motor vehicle operated by Beams. An investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Vehicular Homicide Unit, Toms River Township Police Department, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, revealed that Beams had been traveling eastbound on Bay Avenue approaching the cross street of Twin Oaks Drive. Shortly after passing Twin Oaks Drive, Beams failed to maintain her lane of travel and entered the shoulder – striking Mr. Cruz, who at the time was retrieving a package from the trunk of his vehicle. As a result of the collision, Mr. Cruz was pinned between the two vehicles and carried a significant distance eastbound on Bay Avenue. Mr. Cruz was subsequently pronounced deceased at the scene.
Beams was transported to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune for treatment of the injuries she sustained in the crash. The initial draw of her blood at the hospital revealed that Beams had a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .32 %. 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. On February 16, 2022, Beams was arrested by Detectives from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Vehicular Homicide Unit at her residence. She was transported to the Ocean County Jail, where she is presently lodged pending a detention hearing.
Prosecutor Billhimer commends the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Vehicular Homicide Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Victim Witness Advocacy Unit, Toms River Township Police Department, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, for their collaborative 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. R.P.C. 3.6(b)(6).