By: Najla Alexander
Authorities in Ocean County announced that on December 1, 2023, the Honorable Guy P. Ryan, P.J.Cr.P., sentenced Ashley Watkins, 32, of Eatontown, to five years in New Jersey State Prison as a result of her previously entered guilty plea to Vehicular Homicide in connection with a motor vehicle crash that occurred in Brick Township on May 9, 2021, resulting in the death Nancy Penrod, 78, of Brick.
Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer said the sentence is subject to the terms of the No Early Release Act (NERA), meaning that Watkins will be required to serve at least 85 percent of her sentence before she may be considered for parole eligibility.
According to officials, Watkins pled guilty to the charge before Judge Ryan on October 5, 2023.
Additionally, on December 1, officials said, Watkins pled guilty to the motor vehicle offense of Driving While Intoxicated; as a consequence, Judge Ryan suspended Watkins' driving privileges for a term of seven months.
Officials say on May 9, 2021, at approximately 9:45 a.m., officers of the Brick Township Police Department responded to the intersection of Lanes Mill Road and Greenwood Loop for a serious motor vehicle crash with injuries.
Through investigation, officers determined that a 2011 Toyota Camry operated by Watkins was traveling southwest on Lanes Mill Road when she crossed the center line of the roadway and collided head-on with a 2014 Dodge Caravan, driven by Terry Penrod, 78, of Brick. Mr. Penrod's wife, Nancy Penrod, was a passenger in the vehicle.
Authorities say Mr. Penrod sustained a broken leg and was transported to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune for treatment.
Watkins sustained minor injuries from the crash and was taken to Ocean Medical Center for treatment, officials said.
While at Ocean Medical Center, Watkins consented to a draw of her blood, officials say.
According to officials, on June 2, 2021, the toxicology results of Watkin's blood draw revealed the presence of fentanyl, diphenhydramine (Benadryl), and marijuana in her bloodstream, which rendered her unfit to safely operate a motor vehicle at the time of the crash.
Authorities say on June 4, 2021, Detectives from the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office Vehicular Homicide Unit and Officers from the Brick Township Police Department arrested Watkins at her residence without incident.
Watkins was transported to the Ocean County Jail and later released as a consequence of New Jersey Bail Reform, officials stated.