Arrests in Chemical Spill Incident – On Sunday, August 10, 2014, at 10:41 p.m., the Lacey Township Police Department received a report of a motor vehicle accident on West Lacey Road near Aspen Road. Upon arrival of officers, they discovered that the vehicle was no longer in the area, but a large area of the roadway was coated with diesel fuel. The officers located the crash site into the woods along West Lacey Road where they found five large (55 gallon) plastic containers in the woods at the crash site. The contents of one of the containers had completely leaked into the wooded area. The other four containers remained sealed. A five mile stretch of Lacey Road was immediately shut down and the Berkeley Hazmat Unit along with the Bamber Lake Fire Company responded to the scene.
The Lacey Township Police Department secured the crime scene and the roadway was open to traffic at 2:20 a.m. on Monday, August 11, 2014. The Criminal Investigation Unit (CIU) of the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department responded to photograph the scene. The NJDEP responded to the scene midday on Monday, August 11, 2014, and clean up efforts continued through 10:15 p.m. on Monday, August 11, 2014. Officer Robert Flynn and Officer Jeffrey Slota of the Lacey Township Police Department were assigned the follow-up investigation with the assistance of Detective Thomas Haskell Jr. of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.
On Monday morning, August 11, 2014, Officer Robert Flynn and Officer Jeffrey Slota conducted a search of the area for the vehicle involved in the collision. Both officers located a damaged 2001, Jeep Cherokee and a trailer at 2422 Capshaw Road in the Bamber Lake section of Forked River which investigation linked to the transport of the 55 gallon containers and the accident. The officers seized both the Jeep and the trailer as criminal evidence.
The vehicle, owned by 26-year-old Shannon Smith of Saltspray Drive in Forked River, ultimately led to the identification of 24-year-old Nico T. Morgan as the driver of the vehicle. Within hours after officers seized the Jeep, the officers received word from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office that an attorney representing Nico T. Morgan contacted their office regarding the accident. On Tuesday, August 12, 2014, Officer Robert Flynn prepared a criminal complaint for Nico T. Morgan for the 2nd Degree charge of Abandonment of a Toxic Pollutant. Bail was set on that charge at $15,000.
While continuing the investigation on Tuesday, August 12, 2014, Officer Robert Flynn and Officer Jeffrey Slota determined that 366 gallons of diesel fuel was stolen from the Brick Wall property of the Hesse Company. The officers determined that Paul R. Townsend Jr., an employee on the property of Brick Wall, conspired with Nico T. Morgan to facilitate the theft of the “on road” diesel fuel. Investigation revealed that 7 containers were allegedly filled by Nico Morgan with a total of 366 gallons of fuel and removed from the property. The total value of the fuel is $1,262. The Jeep Cherokee, along with the trailer holding the seven containers of diesel fuel, was only able to travel several hundred yards east on West Lacey Road before losing control and crashing into the woods. As much as 110 gallons of diesel fuel is believed to have spilled during the incident.
Investigation further revealed that Nico T. Morgan fled the scene in the Jeep Cherokee after being pulled from the woods after calling upon the assistance of Paul R. Townsend Jr. of Forked River. The Jeep traveled from the scene on only three wheels, as one wheel was dislodged and left in the roadway as a result of the collision.
Based on the discovery of the theft of the 366 gallons of diesel fuel, additional charges were filed in this incident.
Officer Robert Flynn charged Nico T. Morgan with the theft of $1,262 worth of diesel fuel and charged Paul R. Townsend Jr. with conspiracy to commit theft of $1,262 worth of diesel fuel. Nico Morgan, through his attorney, turned himself in at police headquarters on the afternoon of Tuesday, August 12, 2014. Nico Morgan was processed and released after posting a bond for $40,000 combined bail. Officer Robert Flynn prepared a criminal summons for Paul R. Townsend Jr. regarding the conspiracy to commit theft charge.
Officer Jeffrey Slota completed the accident investigation which included the issuance of motor vehicle summonses charging Nico T. Morgan with Leaving an Injurious Substance in the Roadway, Leaving the Scene of an Accident, Failure to Report an Accident, Reckless Driving, and several other related offenses.