Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on June 24, 2021, Michael Pillarella, 27, of Manahawkin, was indicted by a Grand Jury sitting in Ocean County on the charge of Aggravated Manslaughter in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4a(1), in connection with a motor vehicle crash that occurred in Little Egg Harbor Township during the evening hours of January 30, 2021 – resulting in the death of a female juvenile victim. Pillarella was also indicted on charges of Vehicular Homicide in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5a; Strict Liability Vehicular Homicide in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5.3; 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).
On January 30, 2021, at approximately 9:45 p.m., officers from the Little Egg Harbor Township Police Department responded to the area of Radio Road and Baltusrol Court for a report of a two-vehicle crash with serious injuries. An investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Vehicular Homicide Unit and Little Egg Harbor Police Department revealed that a 2017 Hyundai Elantra, operated by Pillarella, was traveling northbound on Radio Road when he failed to negotiate a curve in the roadway, crossed over the centerline, and struck an oncoming 2006 Toyota XB travelling southbound on Radio Road. The Toyota XB was operated by a juvenile, and there was also a juvenile passenger in the vehicle. As a result of the crash, both juveniles sustained serious injuries and were subsequently airlifted to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune.
Pillarella was airlifted to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center Trauma Center in Atlantic City for treatment of his injuries from the crash. A warrant was obtained for a draw of Pillarella’s blood. Pillarella was treated and released from the hospital, and was initially issued several motor vehicle summonses.
Further investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Vehicular Homicide Unit and Little Egg Harbor Police Department resulted in the filing of additional charges against Pillarella on February 1, 2021 for 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) — two counts as to each offense relating to both juvenile victims. Pillarella was taken into custody without incident on that date by officers from the Little Egg Harbor Police Department, and he has been lodged in the Ocean County Jail since his arrest.
On February 9, 2021, the female juvenile passenger in the Toyota XB succumbed to the injuries she sustained as a result of the January 30, 2021 crash. She was pronounced deceased at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. As a consequence, the charges against Pillarella were upgraded to include Aggravated Manslaughter in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4a(1) and Vehicular Homicide in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5a relative to the female juvenile passenger. The charges of Aggravated Assault and Assault by Auto are in connection with the female juvenile driver – who continues to recover from her serious injuries – remained in force and effect.
On February 15, 2020, Detectives from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office received the laboratory results relative to Pillarella’s blood draw; those results revealed that Pillarella was under the influence of Alprazolam, Methadone, and Fentanyl at the time of the crash, and that he was unfit to safely operate a motor vehicle on the roadways of the State of New Jersey. Additionally, further investigation revealed that Pillarella was operating his motor vehicle at an excessive rate of speed – approximately 74 miles per hour at the time of the crash – for which he was charged with Speeding in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-98.
Prosecutor Billhimer acknowledges the diligent efforts of Supervising Assistant Prosecutor Robert Cassidy and Assistant Prosecutor Alyssa Mandara who are handling the case on behalf of the State, as well as the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Vehicular Homicide Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Victim Witness Advocacy Unit, Little Egg Harbor Township Police Department, New Jersey State Police, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, for their collaborative assistance in connection with this investigation resulting in today’s indictment.
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.