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Paint Chips Lead To Couple's Arrest In Fatal Burlington Pedestrian Crash

Tonya Brown Photo Credit: Burlington County Prosecutor's Office
Victor Beown Photo Credit: Burlington County Prosecutor's Office

A Burlington County couple has been arrested in connection with a collision that killed a 72-year-old man from Browns Mills two days after Christmas, authorities said.

New Jersey State Police matched paint found on the victim's clothing with paint on the Nissan Pathfinder suspected of running the man over on Dec. 27, according to Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina and Pemberton Township Police Chief David King.

Tonya Brown, 35, of Kinsley Road has been charged with striking and killing the pedestrian as he was crossing Lakehurst Road, they said. She did not have a driver's license, they said.

Brown's 44-year-old husband, Victor, has been charged with helping her try to conceal the crime, Coffina and King said.

Both defendants were charged with hindering apprehension and tampering with evidence, the prosecutor said.

Tonya Brown, who was driving, was additionally charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident, endangering an injured victim and causing death while driving unlicensed, Coffina said.

The defendants were taken into custody on Dec. 29. Tonya was taken to the Atlantic County Justice Facility in Mays Landing, while Victor was being held in the Burlington County Jail in Mount Holly. They each face a detention hearing on Wednesday in Superior Court in Mount Holly, according to the prosecutor.

An investigation found that about 7 p.m. on Dec. 27, the couple was traveling east on Lakehurst Road near Choctaw Drive in a Nissan Pathfinder when they struck Ronald Zukowski, who was crossing the roadway, authorities said.

The investigation further revealed that the vehicle sped away after striking Zukowski without stopping to provide assistance. The Browns then drove to a property on Bayberry Street and covered their SUV with a tarp, authorities said.

Paint chips taken from Zukowski’s clothing were compared to chips taken from the Pathfinder by the New Jersey State Police Office of Forensic Sciences, which concluded the samples originated from the same vehicle, the prosecutor said.

Zukowski, also known as "Ronnie," was a native of Trenton, a U.S. Navy veteran and married father of two. He was remembered as a man who enjoyed open ocean fishing, gambling, volunteering for local charities and rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles, according to his obituary. 

This case is being handled by Assistant Prosecutor Joshua Dennis. The investigation was conducted by the Prosecutor’s Office and the Pemberton Township Police Department. The lead investigators were BCPO Detective Sergeant Nicholas Villano and Pemberton Township Patrolman Vincent Cestare.

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