Officials are praising the owner of an automotive shop who they say helped investigators identify a car involved in a fatal hit-and-run and then later saw the car being towed on a highway, leading police to the alleged driver.
Alan Picker, who owns an auto body shop in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey has helped Ocean County investigators solve hit-and-run crashes in the past by taking a look at the debris left behind. He most recently helped investigate the death of 34-year-old John Ekarius who was struck and killed by a vehicle while walking along Rt. 70 in Toms River, New Jersey back on Nov. 22. The striking vehicle fled the scene.
Picker, who offers his services to investigators free of charge, first determined the hit-and-run vehicle was a blue Nissan Altima based on evidence at the crash scene. On Thanksgiving, while heading to dinner however, Picker says he actually saw the Altima being loaded onto a tow truck along the Garden State Parkway after it broke down.
“I go, ‘It can’t be. It’s got to be a coincidence,’” Picker said. “I saw the bumper was broken.”
Picker then called a friend in the State Police.
“I told him, ‘You know the car that they’re looking for?’ He goes, ‘Yeah.’ I go, ‘I think I just passed it,’” Picker said.
Using Picker’s tip, police tracked the car down to a home in Neptune, New Jersey. They then determined it was the hit-and-run vehicle and identified the driver as Maxine Pickard, 73, of Berkeley Township. Pickard turned herself in Friday and was charged with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death.
“Simply miraculous,” said Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato. “Overwhelmingly unbelievable.”
Pickard was released after paying 10 percent of $50,000 bail. No one answered her door at her home Monday.