Trooper acquitted in crash that killed sisters

June 8, 2009 8:36:42 PM PDT
A New Jersey state trooper has been found not guilty of death by auto for a September 2006 crash that killed two teen sisters on their way to a store to buy milk. Trooper Robert Higbee ran a stop sign while pursuing a speeder with his lights and siren off, and killed Jacqueline and Christina Becker in Cape May County's Upper Township.

Jurors deliberated for more 15 hours before returning the verdict late Monday afternoon.

Much of the day was spent reading the testimony of Robert Higbee back to jurors, a process that took several hours.

But, once that was finished, it took very little time for the jury to come back with their verdict, which was read just before 5:00 p.m.

Higbee's lawyer had argued that the crash was a tragedy, but not a crime.

After the verdict, Higbee expressed sympathy for the girls' family, but said he was grateful the jury agreed with his contention that it was a tragic accident.

"I still think about it every day," Higbee said to reporters after the verdict had been read. "It's with us, it's with me. Nothing's ever going to bring those girls back. But, I think the jury said what we've been thinking all along: This was an accident, not a crime. I never went out there to hurt anybody, and I'm glad the jury saw that."

He could have been sentenced to 10 years in prison had he been convicted.

After the verdict was read, the girls' mother showed little reaction.

"This process is very difficult. I had to sit there and listen to how my daughters died over and over and over again," said Maria Caiafa, mother of Jackqueline and Christina Becker. "I'm glad it's over. What it's representative of is due process. My main focus in this is that [Trooper] Higbee be held accountable. I'm not judge and jury. I gave it to our system, and the system decided."

Higbee and Caiafa did speak after the verdict was announced, but both said that conversation will remain secret. Caiafa did say she would like to work with the state police to get their pursuit policies changed.

Trooper Higbee says he wants to get back to work on the force.

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