The Manahawkin driver behind the wheel while doing 74 mph before a crash that later killed a Little Egg Harbor teen, has been indicted by a Grand Jury in Ocean County.

Ocean County Prosecutors Office. (Vin Ebenau, Townsquare Media NJ)
Ocean County Prosecutors Office. (Vin Ebenau, Townsquare Media NJ)

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Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer announced the indictment Thursday of 27-year old Michael Pillarella for Aggravated Manslaughter, Assault by Auto and Strict Liability Vehicular Homicide stemming from the crash on the night of January 30, 2021 in Little Egg Harbor.

The initial investigation by township police that night, around 9:45 pm, and soon thereafter alongside the OCPO Vehicular Homicide Unit, learned that Pillarella was driving north on Radio Road in a 2017 Hyundai Elantra and failed to drive through a curve in the road and so he crossed over the centerline and struck an oncoming 2006 Toyota XB in the opposite lane.

The Toyota was being driven operated by a juvenile with a juvenile passenger in the vehicle as well.

Both of them sustained serious injuries and had to be airlifted to Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

Pillarella was airlifted to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center Trauma Center in Atlantic City for treatment of his injuries from the crash.

Investigators obtained a warrant to draw Pillarella’s blood following the crash which he was initially cited for and given several motor vehicle violation summonses.

As their investigation unfolded, the OCPO VHU and LEH Police charged Pillarella with two counts of Aggravated Assault and two counts of Assault by Auto.

Pillarella was arrested without incident on that date by LEH Police and has been in the Ocean County Jail ever since.

On February 9, the female juvenile passenger in the Toyota XB passed away from her injuries sustained in the crash, just days before her birthday.

At that point, charges against Pillarella were upgraded to include Aggravated Manslaughter and Vehicular Homicide.

"The charges of Aggravated Assault and Assault by Auto are in connection with the female juvenile driver - who continues to recover from her serious injuries - remained in force and effect," Billhimer said.

On February 15, 2021, Detectives from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office received the laboratory results of Pillarella’s blood which showed that he was under the influence of Alprazolam, Methadone, and Fentanyl at the time of the crash "and that he was unfit to safely operate a motor vehicle on the roadways of the State of New Jersey."

The OCPO investigation revealed that Pillarella was driving at approximately 74 miles per hour at the time of the crash which led to a Speeding charge.

Prosecutor Billhimer said that Supervising Assistant Ocean County Prosecutors Robert Cassidy and Alyssa Mandara are handling the case on behalf of the State.

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