Man charged with vehicular homicide

LOWER TWP., N.J. - September 13, 2009 On Saturday night around 8:30 p.m., police say 37-year-old John J. Lawless of Philadelphia, was driving northbound on State Highway Route 9 approaching the intersection of Bennett's Crossing when he failed to make a slight curve in the roadway and entered the southbound lane onto oncoming traffic.

At that time, 50-year-old Fredrick H. Shelton was driving in a car with his wife Sheri and their 13-year-old daughter southbound State Highway Route 9.

Police say Lawless' vehicle then collided with the Shelton's car nearly head on, striking the front drivers side of Shelton's vehicle near the front tire causing it to spin partially into the intersection of Bennett's Crossing with the vehicle coming to rest facing northbound in the southbound lane of travel. Following the collision, Lawless' vehicle continued past the intersection and came to rest facing westbound straddling the northbound and southbound lanes.

When paramedics arrived, CPR was performed on Fredrick, but he was soon pronounced dead at the scene.

Sheri Shelton was transported by the Lower Township Rescue Squad to the Atlantic City Regional Trauma Center where she was listed in critical condition following emergency surgery.

The Shelton's 13-year-old daughter was initially transported by the Lower Township Rescue Squad to Cape Regional Medical Center where she was stabilized then air lifted to Cooper Hospital in Camden New Jersey.

John Lawless, who police say had a strong odor of alcoholic beverage on his breath, was transported to Atlantic City Regional Trauma Center and admitted to the hospital for injuries sustained in the accident. Lower Township Police Officers proceeded to Atlantic City Regional Trauma Center and retrieved blood samples from Lawless as part of the investigation.

Lower Township Police Officers and a police chaplain then had to make notification to Shelton's family members including a teenage daughter and son.

A computer check of Lawless' driving record showed that his Pennsylvania driver's license had been suspended out of Pennsylvania since 2001 and that Lawless had multiple arrests for Driving While Intoxicated.

Lower Township Police Chief Edward Donohue, who responded to the scene of Saturday night's accident stated, "The bottom line here is this man should not have been operating a motor vehicle on any highway, in any state based on his suspended driving privileges and record of previous DWI arrests".

Chief Donohue stated that Lawless' driving history record was taken into consideration when asking the judge to set a substantial bail on Mr. Lawless' criminal charges. John Lawless was charged with the following criminal and motor vehicle charges by The Lower Township Police Department: 1 count of death by auto for causing the death of Fredrick Shelton by operating a motor vehicle in a reckless manner with evidence of intoxication with a suspended driver's license, 2 counts of assault with a motor vehicle for causing serious bodily injury to Mrs. Sheri Shelton and her 13-year-old daughter.

In addition, Lawless was charged with the following motor vehicle violations: Driving while intoxicated, Operating a motor vehicle with a suspended drivers license, Reckless driving, and Failure to maintain a single lane

Lower Township Municipal Court Judge David Deweese set bail on the criminal charges filed against Mr. Lawless at $100,000.00 cash bail.

Lawless is currently under guard by Lower Township Officers at the Atlantic City Regional Trauma Center. Upon his release he will be transported to the Cape May County Jail.

The accident is currently under investigation by Lower Township Patrol Officer Robert Hartman, Lower Township Detective Edward Dougherty, and members of the Cape May County Fatal Accident Investigation Unit.

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