UNION COUNTY, NJ -- A Fanwood man has been charged with being under the influence of drugs when he caused a motor vehicle collision that left a 94-year-old woman dead and two others injured in Union earlier this year, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay Ruotolo and Union Police Director Daniel Zieser jointly announced Saturday.

Thomas J. Dinapoli, 52, is charged with second-degree death by auto while under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance and with two counts of fourth-degree assault by auto while under the influence. 

On Tuesday, June 4, Dinapoli was driving a 2010 Mazda east on the 1700 block of Morris Ave. in Union when he crossed over double-yellow lines separating traffic and struck a 2008 Chevrolet Impala head-on, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Bruce Holmes, who is prosecuting the case. The investigation was initiated by the Union Police Department and later expanded to involve the Union County Homicide Task Force. 

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All three occupants of the Impala suffered injuries and were transported to Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth, where 94-year-old Michelina Mele was pronounced dead the next day, Holmes said. The investigation later revealed that both cocaine and clonazepam, a powerful tranquilizer, were in Dinapoli’s system at the time of the crash. 

Dinapoli was arrested this week and lodged in Union County Jail pending a first appearance and detention hearing scheduled to take place in Superior Court. 

Convictions on second-degree criminal charges are commonly punishable by 5 to 10 years in state prison. 
These criminal charges are mere accusations. Each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law. 

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