Cops say he killed 3 by driving drugged. He’s rejecting plea deal
The Sussex County SUV driver who authorities say was high on drugs during a winter crash that killed three people at a Wayne gas station today rejected a plea offer of 30 years in prison.
In Passaic County Superior Court, 29-year-old Jason Vanderee did not speak as his defense attorney, John Latoracca, turned down the offer that would have meant pleading guilty to each of three counts of aggravated manslaughter, as reported by the North Jersey Record.
The same report said Latoracca entered a counter-offer of half that sentence, or 15 years in prison.
Jon Warbeck, 50, of Fair Lawn, and his 17-year-old son, Luke, a Boonton High School Junior, were killed along with 22-year-old Lovedeep Fatra, of Pequannock when Vanderee plowed into the station along Route 23 on Feb. 19.
The Vernon resident has said that he does not remember the crash.
Latoracca last month filed notice of his intent to pursue an involuntary intoxication defense in the event of trial.
Latoracca has said his client's unknowingly ingested of fentanyl, which prosecutors say was found in Vanderee's blood and urine samples and a chemical analysis of the heroin that police recovered from his Honda Pilot following the crash.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid, 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
According to the DEA, fentanyl is often added to heroin to increase its potency, or is disguised as highly potent heroin. Many users believe that they are purchasing heroin and actually don’t know that they are purchasing fentanyl, the DEA says.
Vanderee faces three counts of aggravated manslaughter, as well as three counts each of death by auto and death by auto while driving intoxicated within 1,000 feet of school property.
He also faces drug-related offenses including possession of hypodermic needles.
Vanderee has a long history of driving while intoxicated and heroin-related offenses. They range from a 2016 arrest for heroin possession (downgraded in municipal court), a 2017 DWI offense that led to his license being suspended for several months, and at least four accidents in 2008, 2009, 2014 and 2016.
If convicted after a trial, he could face up to 30 years for each count of aggravated manslaughter, alone.
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