NJ woman sentenced to 12 to 24 years for Schuylkill Expressway crash that killed Pa. firefighter

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Thursday, March 2, 2023
DA speaks after woman sentenced in crash that killed firefighter
Raw video: District Attorney Kevin Steele speaks after a woman sentenced in a crash that killed firefighter Thomas Royds.

NORRISTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A woman charged with the murder of a firefighter after crashing into him on the Schuylkill Expressway in 2021 has been sentenced to 12 to 24 years in prison.

Jacquelyn Walker of Little Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey was sentenced Thursday.

"The judge said a number of things that I think were important about protecting the protectors," Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said.

Authorities charged Walker with third-degree murder in connection with the crash that killed 48-year-old firefighter Thomas Royds and wounded three other first responders.

The love firefighter Thomas Royds had for his job was evident as hundreds of first responders came together to say goodbye Saturday.

Royds was a firefighter with Belmont Hills Fire Company and was responding to an emergency call concerning a crash around 3:15 a.m. on July 24, 2021, in the westbound lanes of the Schuylkill Expressway near Waverly Road.

About 20 minutes after first responders arrived at the scene, authorities say Walker, 63 at the time, drove her Jeep Grand Cherokee up on the right shoulder of the highway and crashed into Royds, two other firefighters and a state police trooper before colliding with a vehicle involved in the initial crash.

One firefighter was killed and other first responders were injured early Saturday in a serious crash on Interstate 76 in Lower Merion Township.

Investigators say Walker was not only speeding before the crash, but three of the four brakes on her Jeep did not work. They say this was something Walker was reportedly aware of, yet declined to fix.

Authorities say a South Jersey woman admitted to drinking mixed alcoholic beverages before a crash that killed a Montgomery County firefighter, according to an arrest affidavit.

Authorities say Walker was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, despite her previous admission of drinking before the crash. They withdrew a DUI charge after getting the toxicology report.

In addition to third-degree murder, Walker was also charged with homicide by vehicle, four counts of aggravated assault by vehicle, nine counts of recklessly endangering another person, reckless driving and related charges.

Royds served with the Lower Merion Fire Department in Montgomery County since 1988. He most recently had been splitting his time between three fire companies.

The Schuylkill Expressway, from mile marker 334.5 to mile marker 335.5 in Lower Merion Township, was renamed the "Firefighter Thomas Royds Memorial Highway" in his honor.

Two people were charged with DUI in reference to the original crash.