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Area women hope to increase penalties for hit-and-run drivers
By Joyce Vanaman Staff Writer, (856) 825-2303
MILLVILLE-The deaths of two dearly loved people - Lisa Skinner Miles' father and Donnah Marvel's son - has brought the two area women together.
They met in June when they went to Trenton to be with Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew, D-Cumberland, Cape May and Atlantic, as he introduced a bill to increase penalties for hit-and-run drivers like those who killed Lawrence R. Skinner Sr., 62, of Millville, and Nickolas Marvel, 18, of Somers Point.
"We've been very close since then," said Miles, who lives in Vineland with her husband and son.
This is an especially difficult time for both women as they mark the anniversaries of the hit-and-run accidents that killed their family members.
As they mourn - each in her own way - they both are committed to creating an awareness of the grief caused by hit-and-run drivers and a determination to work for the adoption of the proposed bill.
"Four people die daily on average nationwide from hit-and-run accidents, and the drivers in half of those accidents are never caught," according to statistics cited by Marvel from Deadly Roads, an advocacy group for hit-and-run victims.
Miles said that Millville police Detective Kevin McLaughlin has been very supportive in continuing his almost two-year investigation.
It was around 9:15 a.m. Nov. 14, 2003, that Skinner, a heavy-equipment operator employed by Arbisco, was working on the Brandriff Avenue Bridge when he was struck and killed.
"This person who killed my father is still out there and probably driving every day," Miles said.
It is believed that Skinner was struck by an older-model tri-axle dump truck, McLaughlin said Wednesday.
"We believe that the accident occurred during the morning rush hour traffic and that someone or several people witnessed the actual accident," McLaughlin said. The case is still listed as active, and Miles and McLaughlin are hoping that even though the accident happened two years ago someone will come forward with information.
Crime Stoppers of Millville Inc. is offering up to $1,000 for information that will lead to the arrest and conviction of the driver, and the Skinner family and friends are offering around $5,000, Miles said.
One of the positive things that has taken place, according to Miles, is the activation in August 2004 of the "Skinner Signal." This was done through the efforts of the county, the Sheriff's Office, the 911 Communications and Training Center, local law enforcement agencies and State Police.
William Garrison, the traffic safety coordinator for the Sheriff's Office, previously explained that when a law- enforcement agency has a hit-and-run accident that involves a serious or fatal injury, it notifies the 911 Communications Center, which then notifies other police departments and area radio and television stations. They will then broadcast information on the vehicle requesting people to notify 911 if they see it.
Now Miles' efforts are directed to encouraging the state Senate to act on Assembly Bill A2903. She and Marvel explained that it would increase from five years in prison to 10 years and the fine from $10,000 maximum to $150,000 in hit-and-run accidents that cause fatalities or serious injuries.
The driver who killed Nickolas Marvel has been apprehended, reported Donnah Marvel. She said the driver, also from Somers Point, is awaiting trial.
Marvel's son, who was called Nikk, was killed Nov. 16, 2004, while walking with friends on Route 9, near the intersection with Seaview Avenue, in Linwood. He had graduated from Mainland Regional High School in June 2004 and was working for ShopRite, and the accident took place 40 days before his 19th birthday, Marvel said.
A roadside memorial has been set up at the scene of the accident.
"The landowner is very understanding," Marvel said. "I go there every day, no matter how I feel. It's been therapeutic for me."
Marvel works in a school cafeteria, and her husband, Herman, is a bus driver for NJ Transit. They have a 14-year-old daughter, Dana.
On Wednesday, the first anniversary of Nikk's death, his family, friends and Lisa Skinner Miles and her husband, Robert, will gather at the memorial for a "Faygo shower."
Marvel explained that they will shake up bottles of Faygo soda and spray one another with them. She said that they did that on the day of Nikk's funeral and on his birthday.
The families still grieve for their loved ones, but belonging to a group via the Internet with others whose family members have been the victim of hit-and-run accidents has helped, and they hope that the proposed law will help create an awareness of the tragedy inflicted on victims and their families by hit-and-run drivers.
"We hope people will make less destructive decisions and take responsibility for their actions," Marvel said.
Anyone with information about the Skinner hit-and-run accident is asked to contact McLaughlin at (856) 825-2112 or the Crime Stoppers at (856) 825-2182.
To e-mail Joyce Vanaman at The Press: JVanaman@pressofac.com
Article published Nov 14, 2005
Hit-and-run victim's daughter still on the case
By JAMES P. QUARANTA
MILLVILLE -- Two years after the hit-and-run death of her father on a Millville bridge, Lisa Miles still has hope that authorities will identify the truck driver who killed him.
"It's frustrating, but the hope is always there," said Miles, a Vineland resident. "Right now, my focus is on public awareness."
A dump truck struck and killed 62-year-old Millville resident Lawrence Skinner Jr. on Nov. 14, 2003, as he worked with fellow members of a construction crew fixing the Brandriff Avenue bridge.
The driver may have intentionally left the scene, or might not have stopped because he or she was unaware of the incident, authorities said.
"I don't have any ill feelings against dump truck drivers. My Dad drove a dump truck for Gifford (Trucking), " Miles said. "Every time I see a dump truck, I turn around and try to catch every marking. Since the accident, I've written down a lot of truck descriptions and license plates and gave the information to police detectives."
Police Chief Ronald J. Harvey acknowledged that the investigation is at a standstill.
"We've exhausted all leads," the chief said. "But we haven't forgotten the case, and we're still hoping that new leads will turn up."
Authorities have offered a reward for any tips leading to the identity of the driver.
Meanwhile, Miles continues her efforts to try to prevent others from experiencing the same heartbreak she's had for the past two years.
In June, the state Assembly passed "Skinner's Law," a measure that would drastically increase penalties for drivers involved in serious or fatal hit-and-run crashes. Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew, D-1, introduced the bill and was instrumental in bringing it to a vote.
Donnah Marvel of Somers Point lost her 18-year-old son in a hit-and-run one year and two days after Skinner's death. She and Miles now hope a similar measure can be introduced this year in the state Senate, so the law can be enacted next year.
If the proposal does become law, Marvel wants judges to issue stiff penalties.
"The fine will be up to $150,000 at the discretion of a judge," Marvel said. "But it will only take one decision to set an example that will hopefully make people more responsible for their actions."
State Sen. Nicholas Asselta, R-1, said he is ready to introduce a companion bill to the Assembly version as soon as the Senate resumes business this fall.
"We requested Senate version of the Assembly bill last August and just recently received it," he said.
Skinner's Law calls for:
Up to 10 years imprisonment and a $150,000 fine for drivers in fatal hit-and-runs. The current maximum is five years behind bars and $15,000.
Increased penalties for hit-and-run crashes where a victim is seriously injured.
In August, Miles joined Roadsharks, a Web site at www.deadlyroads.com that honors victims of hit-and-runs and actively supports public awareness campaigns about the issue.