On his 37th birthday, a New Jersey State Trooper took the stand in his own trial on vehicular homicide charges.
Speaking publicly since the first time since the accident that killed Jacqueline Becker, 17, and her 19-year-old sister Christina, Trooper Robert Higbee testified in Cape May Court House Monday that he does not recall seeing the stop sign, which prosecutors accuse him of recklessly running on September 27, 2006.
“Something occurred, a mistake occurred, and a terrible accident occurred and I can’t bring back what happened at that accident but I can tell you this, it’s with me every day,” Higbee said.
The on-duty trooper’s car slammed into the Beckers’ mini-van at an Upper Township intersection, killing them instantly.
“I saw the girls in the van. I saw that they had suffered massive head injuries,” Higbee testified. Maria Caiafa, mother of the Becker sisters, wept repeatedly in the courtroom as she listened to Higbee’s testimony.
Higbee said he was trying to close the gap with a speeder at the time of the crash and had not yet activated his lights and sirens. He said State Police policy did not require him to do so. Higbee testified that he has no memory of the impact itself or the stop sign.
“I don’t have any recollection of a stop sign or any other traffic control device,” Higbee said on the witness stand. “I specifically remember approaching, braking, darkness, looking both ways and darkness. I do not remember stopping at that intersection,” Higbee testified.
However, that testimony contradicted a taped statement Higbee made to State Police investigators in October 2006. It was played for the jury earlier in the trial, which began nearly a month ago.
“I approached the intersection. I remember stopping and looking both ways and proceeding through the intersection,” Higbee stated on the audiotape. He said Monday he did not make any attempt to mislead or give false information to the investigators who took the original statement.
“I gave the statements because that’s the best that I could recollect, still the best that I can recollect. No way, shape or form would I ever disregard a stop sign,” Higbee testified.
The jury must decide if the crash was the result of a horrible accident or a reckless criminal act. Higbee faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted on the two counts vehicular homicide with which he is charged.
Higbee maintains his innocence and remains suspended without pay from the New Jersey State Police. Closing arguments in the trial could come by the end of the week.