MAYS LANDING— Distracted Driving Awareness Month is a very important time of year for the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office Crash Investigations Unit and Atlantic County Assistant Prosecutor Kathleen Robinson. From 2018-2022, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office Crash Investigations Unit has investigated 156 motor vehicle crashes that resulted in a total of 166 fatalities. According to data from the New Jersey State Police Crash Investigations Unit from 2018-2022, statewide there were 2,426 motor vehicle crashes that resulted in 2,573 fatalities.
“As the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents have steadily increased over the last 4 years, Assistant Prosecutor Kathleen Robinson and the investigative members of the Crash Investigations Unit have been dedicated in the pursuit of justice for the victims in these cases. I am proud of the work that this unit carries out to assist in preserving safety on our roadways for those living or visiting Atlantic County,” said Acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Cary Shill.
Assistant Prosecutor Robinson serves as the attorney overseeing all fatal accident investigations for the ACPO Crash Investigations Unit. Representing the voices of crime victims is a huge responsibility that is not taken lightly and one that she is honored to serve.
“One of the roles of a homicide prosecutor is to work alongside very skilled detectives to provide legal guidance throughout the entire investigation. I always knew that I wanted to participate in these complex and challenging cases. The work is difficult but, in the end, incredibly rewarding,” she said.
Assistant Prosecutor Robinson is a 2010 graduate of Widener University School of Law. She has served in the ACPO Crash Investigation Unit since 2019 and with the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office since 2013. The cases she prosecutes within the ACPO Crash Investigations Unit leave a lasting impression that she will never forget. One of those cases involved a fatal accident on the night of December 19, 2018 on Pitney Road in Absecon that took the life of 36-year-old Suzana Kocick of Galloway Township.
Suzana Kocick – a mother and successful employee within the Atlantic City hospitality industry – was killed days before her birthday and Christmas when an impaired driver – who was also a young mother – struck her vehicle head-on.
The motor vehicle crash involving 2 cars occurred on December 19, 2018 at approximately 11:38 P.M. on Pitney Road in the area of Connecticut Avenue in Absecon. The impact occurred in a designated school zone within 1000 feet of the H. Ashton Marsh Elementary School. A vehicle, operated by Kaitlyn Hayes, 24, of Pleasantville was traveling southbound on Pitney Road when it crossed over into the northbound lane and struck another vehicle head-on, that was operated by Suzana Kocick, 36, of Galloway. Kocick was pronounced deceased at the scene. Hayes was transported to an area hospital for treatment. An investigation determined that Hayes’ 2017 Ford Expedition vehicle was traveling at a speed of 106 mph in the 2 seconds prior to the crash, and 104 mph at impact. Toxicology tests revealed Hayes’ blood was positive for marijuana.
On May 14, 2021, Hayes pleaded guilty to first degree Aggravated Manslaughter before Judge Sarah Beth Johnson. Hayes was sentenced on July 2, 2021 to 10 years New Jersey State Prison, subject to the No Early Release Act.
“I will never forget the conversations I had with Suzana’s family members. They shared stories about her life and about how her daughters have begun to cope with the tragic loss of their mother. As a wife and mother, I cannot help but think of my own family when doing this job. My hope is that though the aggressive prosecution of these entirely preventable cases we will send a strong message in Atlantic County to deter distracted and impaired driving,” Assistant Prosecutor Robinson said.
The ACPO Crash Investigations Unit is led by Section Commander Capt. Kevin Hincks and Unit Supervisor Sgt. James Rosiello.
Transportation in Atlantic County consists of several major roadways, NJ Transit operations (bus and rail), airports and intercoastal water ways. All of these support a significant year-round and seasonal tourist population. These transportation systems are protected by various municipal, county, state and transit law enforcement agencies. In the event of a serious incident involving one of these transportation systems, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office supports these agencies through the Crash Investigations Unit.
ACPO Chief of County Investigators Bruce DeShields said the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office Crash Investigations Unit is committed to investigating fatal accidents in the county and making sure that motorists and pedestrians alike are safe.
Members of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office – Crash Investigations Unit are trained to meet both national and/or international standards for accident investigations. The Crash Investigations Unit also employs several technology solutions to aid in these investigations. The unit combines traditional investigative techniques, the science of accident reconstruction and technological solutions to meet best practices for investigating accidents and bringing them to a successful resolution.
The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office – Crash Investigations Unit also works with municipal police departments to conduct numerous Driving Under the Influence checkpoints and/or patrols every year throughout Atlantic County.
“Atlantic County Law enforcement is responsible for the safety of a significant year-round and seasonal tourist population that travel on our roadways. The Crash Investigations Unit is committed to using best practices when investigating accidents on Atlantic County’s roadways and advocating for the safety of all motorists, passengers and pedestrians,” Chief DeShields said.
Anyone with information involving serious crimes is asked to call the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office at 609-909-7800 or go to the Prosecutor’s Office Web site at http://www.acpo.org/tips.html and provide information by filling out the form anonymously on the Submit a Tip page. People can also call Crime Stoppers at 609-652-1234 or 1-800-658-8477 (TIPS) or visit the Crime Stoppers Website at http://www.crimestoppersatlantic.com/. Crime Stoppers offers cash rewards for information leading to the arrest and indictment of those who commit crimes in Atlantic County.