Toxicology tests showed that prescribed drugs contributed to the fatal head-on crash, and Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer cited the compassion of the crash victim's family in a plea agreement with the 70-year-old driver blamed in the fatal crash.
William Orr, 70, of Whiting, pleaded guilty on Thursday before Superior Court Justice Guy P. Ryan to vehicular homicide and driving under the influence.
The motor vehicle crash occurred in LaceyTownship on Sept. 28, 2018, resulting in the death of Elizabeth Patashinsky, 40, of Palm Bay, Florida, Billhimer said.
At the time of Orr’s sentencing on May 10, the State will be seeking a term of three years New Jersey State Prison with a three-year-term of parole ineligibility, Billhimer said.
This plea agreement was entered into after extensive consultation with Patashinsky’s family and in consideration of their wishes, according to Billhimer.
An investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Vehicular Homicide Unit, Lacey Township Police Department, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit found that Orr was operating a 2018 Hyundai Elantra and traveling westbound on Lacey Road, when he crossed over the center line and struck a 2017 Nissan Sentra being driven by Patashinsky head-on.
Patashinsky was taken to Community Medical Center, where she succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced dead. A passenger in Patashinsky’s vehicle, William Muset, 66, of Whiting, also was taken to Community Medical Center, treated for his injuries, and released.
Orr was treated at the crash scene for his injuries. He exhibited no signs of impairment at the scene, nor was he able to perform any field sobriety tests due to a back injury which required him to use a cane for balance, Billhimer said.
Orr was taken to Community Medical Center, where he voluntarily consented to a draw of his blood, the prosecutor said.
On Oct. 29, 2018, toxicology results from Orr’s blood draw revealed the presence of four medications which had been lawfully prescribed to him: Alprazolam, Gabapentin, Oxycodone and Zolpidem.
Although no alcohol or illegal narcotics were detected in Orr’s system, forensic toxicologists concluded that the combined psychoactive effects of those medications made Orr unfit to safely operate a motor vehicle, according to Billhimer.
Orr was arrested at his residence by detectives from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Vehicular Homicide Unit, Lacey Township Police Department, and Manchester Township Police Department, and charged in connection with the death of Patashinsky.
Orr was taken to the Ocean County Jail, but released by the Court on Nov. 2, 2018 as a result of New Jersey Bail Reform.
“But for the compassionate and forgiving nature of the victim’s family - and their unequivocal desire to achieveclosure after this two-and-one-half yearlong nightmare - this plea agreement would never have even been contemplated by this Office, let alone approved,” Billhimer stated. “It is only by the grace of Ms. Patashinsky’s family that we agreed to a sentence that is significantly less than what would otherwise have been recommended to the Court."
"This defendant should consider himself very fortunate that the victim’s family – in a show of tremendous mercy – requested this case be resolved is this manner,” Billhimer added.
“I wish to remind the public that impaired driving is not limited to being under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol. The combined effects of ingesting even prescription medications might very well have a deleterious impact upon one’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle," the prosecutor said.
"I urge all motorists who use prescription medications to exercise extreme caution before they drive; failure to do so may produce deadly consequences, as this case so painfully demonstrates,” Billhimer said.
Supervising Assistant Prosecutor Michael Abatemarco handled the case.
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