Prosecutor: Third-degree Murder Charge for Little Egg Harbor, NJ, Woman in Death of Firefighter
Jacqueline Walker, the Little Egg Harbor woman who police in Pennsylvania say drove her Jeep into emergency responders, causing the death of a firefighter and injuring three others who were investigating a crash on the Schuylkill Expressway, was arraigned on Tuesday on charges of third-degree murder, homicide by vehicle, and several other traffic offenses in connection with the July crash.
The crash killed Lower Merion, PA, firefighter Thomas Royds, who was covering a shift with the Belmont Hills Fire Co.
Royds, 49, was a career and volunteer firefighter for more than 30 years, according to CBS3 Philadelphia.
After the crash, Walker, 63, allegedly told investigators she consumed alcohol earlier and that she believed she was on I-295 at the time of the crash.
Walker was suspected of driving under the influence and originally was charged with homicide by vehicle while DUI, but that charge was withdrawn after toxicology tests determined Walker was not impaired by drugs or alcohol, officials said.
Officials determined Walker’s jeep was in poor condition with severe rusting and only one functional brake. Previous records and evidence show that Walker knew that three of her four brakes were not functional yet she never fixed them and continued to drive her jeep, according to investigators.
During a press conference Tuesday, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said, “This crash is every first responder’s nightmare and it’s the nightmare of every first responder’s family, also. An incident like this is going to live with all of these individuals for the rest of their lives.”
“Our extensive investigation found that Walker operated her vehicle despite knowing that her brakes were not in functioning order, operating her vehicle in such an extreme reckless manner that she plowed through an active, well-marked emergency response area, severely injuring three first responders and killing another first responder, leading us to add the third-degree murder charge.”
The crash occurred on July 24 on I-76 westbound between the Gladwyne and Conshohocken exits. Pennsylvania State Police and Belmont Hills Fire Company had been called to the area earlier that morning at 3:06 AM for another crash.
At 3:23 AM, Walker drove her 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee at a high speed and crashed into four emergency responders, including firefighter Thomas Royds, investigators said.
Royds died from his injuries. Two other firefighters and a state trooper were also injured in the crash.
Walker has been held in prison on $500,000 cash bail since the crash. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 14.