Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on September 15, 2023, Ashley Beams, 32, of Toms River Township, was sentenced by the Honorable Guy P. Ryan, P.J.Cr.P., 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 Toms River on February 8, 2022 – resulting in the death of James Cruz, 62, of the Parlin section of Old Bridge Township. This sentence will be subject to the terms of the No Early Release Act, meaning that Beams will be required to serve at least 85 percent of her prison sentence before she may be considered for parole eligibility. Beams pled guilty to the charge before Judge Ryan on July 24, 2023. Additionally, on September 15, 2023, Beams pled guilty to the motor vehicle offense of Driving While Under the Influence of Alcohol; as a consequence, Judge Ryan suspended Beams’ driving privileges for a term of one year.
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 injuries she sustained in the crash. Blood samples taken from Beams at the hospital and in furtherance of the investigation revealed that her Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) at the time of the collision was substantially higher than .08. 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 the operator’s 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, and subsequently released as a consequence of New Jersey Bail Reform.
Prosecutor Billhimer acknowledges the diligent efforts of Supervising Assistant Prosecutor Robert Cassidy and Supervising Assistant Prosecutor Jamie Schron who handled the case on behalf of the State, and 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 leading to Beams’ guilty pleas – and now her state prison sentence.