MANAHAWKIN – An Ocean County man has been sentenced to 17 years in state prison after driving 80 miles an hour while intoxicated, resulting in the death of a teen girl.
On January 30, 2021, officers from the Little Egg Harbor Township Police Department reported to Radio Road and Baltusrol Court about a two-vehicle crash with serious injuries. It was revealed that Michael Pillarella, 28, of Manahawkin, was driving northbound on Radio Road when he failed to negotiate a curve in the road and hit an oncoming car.
Two teens were in the other car and both had to be airlifted to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune due to serious injuries. Pillarella was airlifted to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center Trauma Center in Atlantic City for treatment of his injuries.
On February 1, 2021, Pillarella was charged with Aggravated Assault and Assault by Auto with two counts as to each offense.
On February 9, 2021, one of the teens involved in the incident passed away from her injuries. As a result, the charges against Pillarella were upgraded to include Aggravated Manslaughter and Vehicular Homicide.
Police revealed laboratory results of Pillarella’s blood, which they found he was under the influence of Alprazolam, Methadone and Fentanyl at the time of the crash. Police also found that Pillarella was driving at an excessive rate of speed, around 80 miles per hour, at the time of the crash. Subsequently he was charged with Speeding.
On May 5, Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that Pillarella was sentenced to 17 years in New Jersey State Prison (NJSP) having previously been found guilty of Manslaughter. This sentence will be subject to the terms of the No Early Release Act, meaning that Pillarella will be required to serve at least 85 percent of his prison sentence before he may be considered for parole eligibility.
Additionally, Pillarella was sentenced to four years NJSP as a result of being found guilty of Assault by Auto in connection with the same motor vehicle crash. The sentences will run consecutively.
Prosecutor Billhimer commended the diligence and dedication of Supervising Assistant Prosecutor Robert Cassidy and Assistant Prosecutor Alyssa Mandara who together tried this case on behalf of the State. The Prosecutor likewise extends his gratitude to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Vehicular Homicide Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office High Tech Crimes Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Victim Witness Advocacy Unit, Little Egg Harbor Township Police Department, Berkeley Township Police Department, New Jersey State Police, Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, and Ocean County Medical Examiner’s Office, for their combined and collective efforts investigating this tragedy – ultimately resulting in Pillarella’s state prison sentence.