New Jersey Trooper Not Guilty in Deadly Crash

New Jersey State Trooper Robert Higbee escaped prison time after he was found not guilty of vehicular homicide in a Cape May County Court Monday. His relief was a stark contrast to the pain felt on the other side of the courtroom.

"I spent 20 years of my life thinking 100 percent about my children and now I spend every waking moment trying to push what I love out of my head," said Maria Caiafa. Her two teenage girls, Jacqueline and Christina Becker, were killed after Higbee's cruiser slammed into the family's minivan in September 2006.

The on-duty trooper was racing through an Upper Township neighborhood at over 79 m.p.h., when he blew a stop sign and took two lives in an instant.

“I saw the girls in the van. I saw that they had suffered massive head injuries,” Higbee testified. “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."

Jurors mulled over the question as to whether Higbee, who faced 20 years in prison if found guilty, was negligent in causing the crash. Higbee said he was chasing a speeder at the time of the crash.

“Nothing’s going to ever bring those girls back but I think jury did say what we’ve been thinking all along that this was an accident, not a crime,” Higbee told reporters.

For the victims' mother, the verdict was not her focus. She is hoping the case will cause state police to change its policies on car pursuits.

After the trial, Caiafa had a private meeting with Higbee – neither would say what was discussed. “It was personal, it was private and it was something that I wanted to address with him,” Caiafa said.

The case drew some national attention because much of the evidence mounted against Higbee was taken from the black box recorder in his police car, according to

Higbee was suspended without pay pending the outcome of the trial. There is no word yet whether he will be fully reinstated as a trooper.

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