Texting-and-driving trial: Victim's head hit the ground 'like a basketball'

Last updated: 11-16-2019

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Texting-and-driving trial: Victim's head hit the ground 'like a basketball'

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That was the question posed via text message to Alexandra Mansonet about her dinner plans on Sept. 28, 2016, an assistant prosecutor told a jury Wednesday.

Mansonet typed two letters, M and E, into her phone but never finished her text or sent it, Christopher Decker, assistant Monmouth County prosecutor, told the jury. She was interrupted when her Mercedes Benz crashed into a car that had slowed to a stop in front of her at a crosswalk in Hazlet to let a pedestrian cross, Decker said.

Joseph Matich of Keansburg, a passenger in his father's Toyota, told the jury Mansonet's Mercedes struck the rear of their car and pushed it into the pedestrian, whose face went through their windshield. He described for the jury what happened next.

"Her face smashed off the windshield, cracked the windshield of the vehicle,  and then her head smashed  the ground, I would say two to three times, like a basketball," Matich testified.

The pedestrian was Yuwen Wang, a 39-year-old Hazlet woman who had decided to go for a walk while on her break from a nearby fragrance factory in Hazlet, Decker told the jury. She died five days later at Robert Wood Johnson University Medical Center in New Brunswick.

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Mansonet, 50, of Keansburg is on trial for vehicular homicide in what is believed to be the first such trial in New Jersey involving allegations of texting while driving.

"Alexandra Mansonet wasn't drunk," Decker told the jury in his opening statement. "She wasn't high. She wasn't speeding. This is not your typical vehicular homicide."

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He suggested the jurors might be "thinking something along the lines, 'Wow, this could happen to me.'"

Making reference to the phrase, "There but for the grace of God go I," Decker asked the jurors not to let sympathy affect their decision in the case. 

"The law is the law," Decker said. 

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Decker said Mansonet never saw the car stopped in front of her because she was looking at her phone.

"It would have been no different if she had a blindfold on," the assistant prosecutor said.

"The pressing question that brought us here is what her and her friend were going to eat that night," Decker said of the defendant. 

Defense attorney Steven D. Altman argued that the accident occurred at least 60 seconds after Mansonet received the text message about dinner plans. 

"She could have been a half mile away, perhaps three-quarters of a mile," Altman said. "She's going to tell you she wasn't texting."

Altman said Mansonet was trying to adjust her rear defogger.

Mansonet is on trial before Superior Court Judge David F. Bauman.

Kathleen Hopkins, a reporter in New Jersey since 1985, covers crime, court cases, legal issues, unsolved mysteries and just about every major murder trial to hit Monmouth and Ocean counties. Contact her at khopkins@app.com; 732-643-4202.

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