Vehicular Homicide Charges Filed Against Driver in Fatal Route 1 Accident

Lawrence Township police have identified Jennifer L. Grondski, 40, of Trenton as the woman who was struck and killed by a car as she tried to cross Route 1 in a motorized wheelchair late Thursday night.

The motorist whose late Thursday night (Aug. 23) was allegedly intoxicated and has been charged with vehicular homicide-related offenses, Lawrence Township police announced Friday morning.

The deceased was indentified by police as Jennifer L. Grondski, 40, of the 1900 block of Greenwood Avenue, Trenton.

The driver, Mitchell R. Depace, 26, of Jewel Road, West Windsor, was charged with death by auto, driving under the influence and reckless driving, according to township police spokesman Lt. Mark Ubry.

The deadly accident occurred along the northbound side of Route 1 (Brunswick Pike) at the intersection with Bakers Basin Road/Franklin Corner Road. It was reported to police at 11:43 p.m. Thursday.

Ubry said investigators from the township police department and the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office have determined that at the time of the accident Grondski, operating a motorized wheelchair, was in the striped crosswalk attempting to cross Route 1, going east from Franklin Corner Road toward Bakers Basin Road.

Depace was driving his 2011 Nissan Altima in the right northbound Lane, Ubry said, noting that Depace had a green light at the intersection.

Depace’s car struck Grondski with such force that she was thrown a considerable distance.

She was pronounced dead at the scene upon the arrival of emergency medical personnel. Depace, meanwhile, was arrested, handcuffed and placed in the rear of a patrol car.

Another man who was riding as a passenger in Depace’s car initially left the scene, according to witnesses. But that man later returned to the scene and cooperated with police, Ubry said.

He said that passenger, a Lawrence Township resident, was not charged with any crime and was later treated for minor injuries he received when the car’s airbag deployed.

The northbound lanes of Route 1 remained closed until about 3 a.m. to allow authorities to investigate.

Conducting the investigation are township Police Officers James Larkin and Sean Kerins and Detective Robert Potter, with the assistance of Detective Tony Abarno from the prosecutor’s office.

Police ask anyone who witnessed the accident or who might have information that could assist investigators to call them at (609) 896-1111.

David Smith August 26, 2012 at 12:53 AM
I wonder if they ever ran a wheelchair across with the time that is given to cross?
LA August 26, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Getting Gone, the young man's race or ethnicity is not an issue. You don't know the facts so it is inappropriate to make comments such as "rot in hell" to others that are stating an opinion. There are limits to the freedom of speech - name calling can be censored or deemed as inappropriate.
David Smith August 26, 2012 at 01:15 AM
So if you take the time to read this story she was crossing against the light came across the barrier and he was in the right lane heading north. So his reaction time would be one lane of traffic as she became visible after clearing the barrier. I personally am glad it wasn't me stone cold sober. That's not a lot of time and considering it was night and we don't know what color she was wearing this COULD have ended in a fatality for any of us. However, when you drink and drive you set yourself up to be charged as this guy was. Plea it out and move on. No winners here. He deserves a couple years in jail and she has already paid the highest price.
Steven A Martin August 26, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Dave, I tend to walk at a fairly brisk pace. When the countdown indicated 11 seconds I was stepping onto the opposite curb. That means about 11 seconds of "safe" time and a few additional seconds before traffic entering the intersection would have a green light. That intersection is dangerous even to an eldery or even slow walker, much less for a person crossing in a wheel chair at night!
Truth To Come August 26, 2012 at 04:36 AM
Sarah, knows more than all of you. The truth will come out. A drug test needs to be given to the victim, even though she died. Hope the EMT used gloves, I am pretty sure she had HIV. There was a motel near by, I know and Sarah knows what she does for a living other than collecting Welfare and Disability, which I know should not matter. Driver shouldn't be drinking and driving but I wonder what the status was of the victim, since she was driving her wheelchair and has a history of drug abuse and a rap sheet to go along with it.
Getting Gone August 26, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Guess what truth. Nowhere in NJ law does it make it illegal to use drugs and operate a wheelchair. Also the HIV, really should that matter. What does that make this a mercy killing and ok?
pat scozzaro August 26, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Does anyone wonder why the other guy in the auto ranned maybe he had something to hide
pat scozzaro August 26, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Sarah doesn't know unless she was there at the accident and each and every one of has made pass mistakes does that mean we should all be KILLED by a DRUNK DRIVER if that is what it means population would be at a low
Carr. Rose August 26, 2012 at 02:24 PM
he was intoxicated but Who crosses rt1 late at night when they don't have the right away!? Not to mention and not to be rude but she's in a wheelchair she couldn't go any faster if a car was coming to get out of the way. The speed limit is 55 it's a very dangerous intersection! Anyone could have hit this lady! And who knows she might have been under the influence herself to cross rt 1 so carefree when she did not have the right of way. I think before people start calling Mitch a murderer and you should wait for the woman's autopsy to come back. And not for nothing but what is anyone doing roaming the streets at midnight !? You are asking for trouble traveling busy roads alone. Also does anyone know what Mitch's BAC was? I think anyone Could have hit this woman or swerved and hit another car.
Steven A Martin August 26, 2012 at 02:55 PM
I think this last person (Carr. Rose) sums it up best. It's a dangerous intersection to cross, especially late at night in a wheelchair! I crossed that intersection on foot, I had about 15 seconds to spare after I reached the other side. Nobody should drive drunk, but this young man is not a murderer. There should be some charges but we need to give him the benefit of the doubt until all the facts are in.
Victor August 26, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Did they actually give him a breathalyzer or a blood test to see what his alcohol level was? This is a tragic accident for all involved and their families but the driver may have only had one beer and so he would have smelled like alcohol in any case. He also had a green light and I would guess it would have been difficult for any person to see or expect someone to be crossing Rt 1 at that hour of the night in a wheelchair. The pedestrian should not have been out at that hour crossing a major highway unaided as well. This case needs to be looked at from all angles before one is accused of homicide.
Sanriobaby August 26, 2012 at 03:39 PM
The truth is, this type of accident could have happend day or night. Even if a driver was sober, the lighting in that intersection sucks at night and the crossing light at that intersection simply doesn't allow even a healthy person enough time to safely cross the street without having to run at the halfway point, which in my opinion is inexcusable. I've seen elderly people and those with smaller kids try to cross this intersection and it's very dangerous for them to do it safely. When you add all the people currently living at the 3 motels surrounding that immediate area, there are a lot more people crossing that interesection regularly and the town needs to reevaluate the timing of that crossing light because there are a lot of people trying to cross that intersection. They should start by extending the timer for at least another 5 seconds. Furthermore, I think that there should be better lighting at night as well because while it's just adaquate enough to drive through, it certainly isn't bright enough to see people trying to cross the street late at night. My heart goes out to the victim and her family. The driver deserves to be charged because he took it upon himself to drive drunk and he should suffer the consequences of his irresponsible actions. Had he been sober, this might have just been a tragic accident and most of us might have more sympathy for him.
pat scozzaro August 26, 2012 at 09:09 PM
You are so right there isn't enough time to get across that street.Many of the people at the motels cross the street to get something to eat. So many people are feeling sorry the driver who made the choice to drive drunk so I also feel he suffer the consequnces for his choice why didn't he call for a ride. Yes if he was sober it would of been an accident with injuries Every day you hear don't drink and drive maybe next time he will make a better choiceit is only a shame it had to take the life of someone
Cassie August 26, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Maybe there should be a foot bridge at this intersection where it is needed and will save lives rather then on the money pit pet project trail. Oh yes the communities best interest is being attended to by or local government.
Lynden Arden August 26, 2012 at 09:30 PM
These motels are not supposed to be long term Lawrence residences yet are used as such by health and welfare agencies for discharge. What happens to these "residents" when the Mrs. G. property is expanded to include Wawa and others? More people walking across route 1 at midnight? I think Lawrence twp would benefit by discouraging these types of establishments but I don't know how they can get rid of them, not even a major flood can accomplish it.
David Smith August 26, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Actually it may well be illegal to operate a motorized wheelchair under the influence. It's illegal to ride a bike why not a wheel chair with a motor? I have no comment about the woman's health it's irrelevant, in truth so is her police record.
Earl August 26, 2012 at 10:33 PM
For the life of me, i can't understand what it will take for them to put in an overpass at this intersection? how many accidents and traffic backups have to take place every morning because they refuse to do so. Who can make this happen? I thought that the governor's accident there years ago would do the trick but even that didnt help trigger the building of an overpass.
David Smith August 27, 2012 at 12:18 AM
We already have a foot bridge over Route 1 down the road a bit. I can't understand why she couldn't make it across the street in a motorized wheel chair in the time alloted.
David Smith August 27, 2012 at 12:40 AM
No chance at overpass not enough room without taking out several businesses.
Betsy Hunt August 27, 2012 at 02:56 AM
This is a very sad story. I wonder if they did any blood work on the victim. Was she intoxicated? Perhaps that is why she chose to go out late at night and made a decision to take a dangerous trip across a highway in a wheelchair...just a thought.
LL August 27, 2012 at 03:53 AM
She was in a motorized wheel chair at 11:40 pm. To any one who doesn't know they go pretty fast!!!! Faster then someone can walk. Being that she was on disability and welfare I'm sure she got a state of the art one! Why was she in this highly populated drug/prostitution area?!?!? OK Mitch was legally intoxicated. He was wrong. He should pay for DUI. Not this POS death. Was it 2, 3, 4, 5 drinks who knows. He is a great guy,college degree, good job, goes to work everyday.... UPSTANDING CITIZEN!!!! He hit and killed a POS heroin addict who was on disability and welfare. Death is tragic, however in my opinion Depace saved every single taxpayer money. This POS goes and shoots up everyday on taxpayer money!!!!! Mitch, I am sooooo sorry that something like this had to happen to you. Yes you deserve punishment but not this. This might seem like the ultimate low for you but there is a light at the end of the tunnel!
Patrick August 27, 2012 at 10:57 AM
Not sure you are doing your friend any favors with this post... and not sure any one with any sense of humanity values life so callously with such a god complex .
Bob Stove August 27, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Yeah, real upstanding citizen. Drunk drivers, the outstanding citizens around. Guy is worthless, even if he hadn't murdered someone he is worthless. Anyone who chooses to drive while drunk is worthless. Whatever the victim was doing out or with her life is her business. She didn't run anyone over with her wheelchair. Depace and all drunk drivers should be locked up. Plain and simple. Sure a sober person might have hit her, but they didn't. Only the drunken fool did that.
Baynaird Despain August 27, 2012 at 01:37 PM
See how easy it is to get people in this country to fight each other ... that is how we will win.
Kris August 27, 2012 at 01:50 PM
This is a terrible tragedy and for all of those involved I wish it hadn't happened. That being said, DePace made a mistake. He is going to pay for this for the rest of his life. For anyone who knows him, he will beat himself up every single day, he will never get this image out of his head, and he would never blame this on anyone but himself. He wouldn't say this lady is "pos heroine addict" "drunk" or "shouldn't have been out crossing rt. 1" - that isn't the person he is. He will take responsibility and he'll do this with the support of his family and friends. He is an upstanding guy, not some "rich white kid" - he's worked for everything he has and unfortunately he made an awful mistake that has ruined his whole entire life a mistake that he can never take back and HE is the one that will live with it. Posting and calling him a scum bag and that he gets what he deseves this and that....that isn't true. Most of us posting are guilty for the same thing, drinking and driving. We are all just very lucky that we never had something as horrible as this happen to us. Kris
Jonas Cobb August 27, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Well Kris, think about the images her mother has in her head. Having to look at a severely dismembered and disfugured body.
Jonas Cobb August 27, 2012 at 04:48 PM
How can you say for sure that she was an addict. Just because she lived in that motel. I see whole familes there, people on welfars and disability aren't just druggues. My father is disabled and on social security because he had a stroke! that doesn't make him a drug addict. WHat about soldiers who are disabled and on welfare. That doesn't make them junkies
Amy August 27, 2012 at 06:17 PM
I was just about to say, everyone who says, "He was in the right! He had the green!" has never been to that intersection or tried to cross--it's a wide, 4 lane highway, and pedestrians are given a very limited amount of time to cross. Add to it that the woman was in a motorized scooter, which are very slow, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Kris August 27, 2012 at 06:43 PM
I'm sure she does. I just think it's very one-sided to think that it's only the victims family affected. This was an accident, and yes, DePace was wrong, there is no arguing that. It's just that he is being painted as a monster, something he is not. He's a human being that made a terrible mistake, one that can't be taken back. I don't think either families benefit from the outpouring negativity that is all over the web. This lady lost her life, and he lost his as well. Neither one is better off than the other at this point.
Steven A Martin August 27, 2012 at 07:02 PM
What extreme polarized views here! Either "he's a worthless drunk who killed an innocent victim" or "he did a service to society by killing a worthless drug addict"; Isn't there any middle ground and rational people here?


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