WEST CALDWELL, NJ - In less than four hours after putting out a description of the likely car involved with the hit and run accident on New Year’s Eve, which hospitalized two James Caldwell High School teenage girls, the West Caldwell Police were able to confidently make an arrest of James Bobowicz, 69 years old, of Caldwell, NJ.
West Caldwell Police are now alleging that at 8:45pm on New Year’s Eve, Bobowicz drove south down Smull Avenue, in West Caldwell, hit the 15-year-old girl, and 16-year-old girl and then kept driving towards Bloomfield Avenue. The initial accident report was investigated by Cpl. John Kappock.
Chief Michael Bramhall put out a public message on New Year’s Day describing the scene when officers arrived there the previous evening: “West Caldwell Officers responded to Smull Avenue (between Elmwood Terrace and Marshall Street). Officers found that a group of seven 15 and 16 year olds were walking south on Smull Avenue when a 15 and 16 year old girl were struck by a passing car. Both girls suffered serious, but non-life threatening injuries.”
The area of Elmwood Terrace and Marshall Street on Smull Avenue is residential:
Credit: Google Maps
After the follow-up investigation, yesterday at around 5:30pm, Detective Sergeant Shaun O’Dowd, Detective Michael Orr and Detective Paul Mazzeo arrested Mr. Bobowicz and impounded his 2005 Blue Cadillac STS.
Bobowicz, who is innocent until proven guilty, was charged with the following offenses:
- 3rd Degree Leaving the scene of an accident with injuries
- 4th Degree Assault by automobile
Motor vehicle charges:
- Failure to report motor vehicle accident
- Leaving the scene of an accident with personal injuries
- Reckless driving
- Driving without headlights
The Implications of the Charges:
Leaving the Scene of An Accident
NJSA 39:4-129 is a law requiring that a driver involved in a motor vehicle accident must immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident, and remain at the scene of the accident so that they may provide specific information to any others involved, as well as to Law Enforcement. Failure to do so is a Motor Vehicle Violation. However in this case it is a criminal offense because the accident resulted in serious bodily injury of another person.
A person who is convicted or pleads guilty of leaving the scene of an accident which results in injury to another person is to be fined between $2,500 and $5,000, or be imprisoned for 180 days, or both. If they were found to conceal evidence of this accident, they can also be fined $250 to $1,000.
In addition, the driver will lose their New Jersey driver’s license for one year if this event is a first offense, and permanently if it’s a second offense.
New Jersey will automatically add 8 points to the driver’s record which will then result in higher premiums and in the future the driver will need to pay more to get “at-risk” insurance coverage.
Assault by Automobile
NJSA 2C: 12-1C legislates that recklessly operating a Motor Vehicle and causing injury to another is a criminal act. A fourth degree charge is implemented if the victim suffers bodily injury.
The Judge has the authority to sentence the convicted driver to up to 18 months in New Jersey State Prison. They also have the right to “postpone, suspend, or revoke” the driver’s license or registration, or both, for up to two years.
- For a fourth degree charge, the Judge may also order fines and restitution up to $10,000.
Failure to Report Motor Vehicle Accident
Immediate notice, with written report of accident, is covered under NJSA. 39:4-130. In this particular case, when a driver has caused injury to a person, they are responsible for completing a written report with police with detailed information about the accident, including it’s cause, and driving conditions.
If a driver is convicted or pleads guilty to knowingly violating this law, they could be fined between $30 to $100. If the driver subsequently concealed evidenceof the accident, they could be fined between $250 to $1,000.
- Their driver’s license and registration may be revoked or suspended.
NJSA. 39:4-96, the Reckless Driving Law, is in regards to a driver who operates a vehicle “ heedlessly, in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others” and in a manner likely to endanger another person or property.
Punishments for a driver pleading guilty or convicted of this offense would be up to 60 days in County or Municipal Jail, along with a fine of $50 to $200. If this is a second conviction, the jail time would be up to 3 months, and the fine would be up to $500.
- NJ Motor Vehicle will also add 5 points to the driver’s record, resulting in higher premiums.
Driving without Headlights
NJSA 39:3-56 covers operating a vehicle without front lighted lamps.
Punishment for those found guilty would be a $44 fine.
West Essex Residents React to News
As soon as the news became public, accolades came in from all over.
Following along with the story online, Scotty Siefert, of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin and originally from West Caldwell commented, "Excellent job by the best department! You guys make us West Caldwell born and raised very proud!"
“Outstanding! Nice job by Chief Michael J. Bramhall and the West Caldwell Police Department!” cheered Mike Kraemer of Caldwell. “It is not easy being a Police Officer, but they make it look easy. That alone is an individual sacrifice that many take for granted, and that equals an outstanding job done. Good Work and Have a Happy New Year!”
Roseland’s Sherry Walz-Eisenhardt commented, “WCPD.....great job!”
“Beautiful. Well done,” expressed West Caldwell’s Bob Davison. “The men and women of the West Caldwell Police force continue to distinguish themselves."
West Caldwell resident, Laura McCarthy, offered, “Great job by the West Caldwell PD. I am so glad they found the person!’
And many residents expressed anger over the initial accident:
Kim Bilhuber of Fairfield noted, “I just can't believe someone would leave the scene after hitting kids with their car!"
John Quackenbush in North Caldwell expressed, "Hopefully the charges stick; it's cases like this that should set an example."
"This is shameful. Who would leave children in the street?" questioned Carla Marras from Caldwell. "I hope he is found guilty of all the charges and given the appropriate sentence."
Police Released Car Information Yesterday
At 1:30pm, Chief Michael Bramhall released information to the public that the police were seeking a 2005-2007 dark blue Cadillac STS. Prior to sharing the information, the police had already communicated with all of the area police departments, as well as to automobile dealers and repair companies.
The police strongly believed that the car had the following damage done to it that evening:
- Front Passenger Side Headlamp Glass - damaged or missing
- Passenger Side Mirror Glass - damaged or missing
- The mirror housing may still be on the vehicle
Bramhall asked that if anyone saw the vehicle, they do their best to determine its license plate number.
Photo showing the side view of what a 2005-2007 Dark Blue Cadillac, STS Model would look like. Credit: West Caldwell Police Department
Today Chief Bramhall commented, “During the investigation, and based on evidence found at the scene of the crash, Detectives were able to ascertain the vehicle involved was a 2005-2007 dark blue Cadillac STS. This information was shared with other police agencies, as well as car dealers and collision repair shops.
Less than 4 hours after making the car information public online, police had already zoned in on their suspect. Apparently Social Media such as Facebook and Twitter, and online local press media were able to successfully help the police with obtaining more information.
“The use of social media and the local press was also a tremendous resource to get the suspect vehicle information out to the public,” explained Bramhall. “Shortly after the vehicle information was made public, a parent of one of the girls hit by the car received information about a possible suspect. This information was then forwarded to the West Caldwell Police Department for further investigation.”
“I am a retired police officer and I would have been proud to work with any member of the WCPD,” expressed West Caldwell’s Thomas King. “I am also a member of the West Caldwell Fire Department and have gotten to know quite a few of the township's police officers! They, and especially the Chief, are as good as any department I have ever worked with. They have been the first to respond to my house on a couple of emergency situations involving my wife and mother-in-law, and quite possibly saved them both from more serious medical problems! Nothing beats good old fashioned police work! Great job!”
West Caldwell resident, Janice Alworth Stickles, commented, “Way to go WCPD!”
“Excellent police work, job well done by the West Caldwell PD!” enthused Caldwell’s Chris Bernardo.
Caldwell resident, Christine Gurriere, cheered, “Nice job WCPD!”
"Thank you to the men and women who work so hard to keep us safe," stated Laura Jane Salamone. "Their dedication is greatly underrated."
“Way to go guys!” John Condit of West Caldwell commented. “Having two kids it's nice to know we have a great team watching over them. Thank you WCPD for all you do.”
Kathy Pigott residing in Roseland complimented, “Well Done! Thank you for a wonderful job!”
Gabi DiAngelis of Caldwell summed it up for everyone when she expressed to the Police "Thanks for making the streets safe and making the community a better place."
Chief Bramhall commented, “I would like to thank the community for their support and help in getting the information out after a positive vehicle description was obtained.”
For further information:
West Caldwell Police Department
Chief: Michael Bramhall
21 Clinton Road
West Caldwell, NJ 07006
Facebook: West Caldwell Police Department