Woman who killed NJ teen in hit-and-run could get early prison release
The mother of a 15-year-old girl killed in a car crash in 2015 is worried that a judge's error could spring the killer from prison sooner than her original sentence.
Toni A. Marletta, 50, pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a fatal motor vehicle accident and endangering the welfare of her juvenile passenger. Marletta struck and killed Marissa Procopio, of Atlantic Highlands, as she walked across Route 36 on July 7, 2015.
According to Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni, Marletta fled the scene, leaving the girl to die. Police suspected but could not prove that she was under the influence.
Marletta had three 16-year-old girls in her car, including her daughter. Her car was found that same night by police.
According to NJ.com coverage of the sentencing, Marletta did not face any charge of vehicular manslaughter because toxicology reports were inconclusive as to when she had ingested Xanax, cocaine and alcohol into her system.
As part of a plea agreement, she was sentenced to 11 years in prison on both counts, according to the the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office.
Marissa Procopio's mother, Danielle Procopio, told New Jersey 101.5 she was notified by Monmouth County Assistant Meghan Doyle two weeks ago that appellate judges wanted to clarify some things with the sentence after Marletta appealed.
She said a reporter for the Monmouth Journal told her that Marletta's entire sentence was thrown out by an appellate panel whose decision stated that a certain mitigating factors could not be considered. In sentencing defendants to a certain number of years in prison, judges have to consider a list of 15 aggravating and 13 mitigating factors and explain their reasoning.
Procopio said Doyle told her she's "relatively confident" the sentence won't be overturned but advised her that it's a possibility she could get a reduced sentence.
"She beat homicide and manslaughter charges already by leaving my daughter to die like road kill. And now she wants a lesser sentence," Procopio said. "You have to laugh at this point or you just spend your whole day crying."
"I just have to do everything I can do on my end to keep this animal in her cage as opposed to her feeling that she's now entitled to leave even though she she already beat murder charges ... but it's not going to happen. I won't let it happen."
The re-sentencing will be done by Superior Court judge Vincent N. Falcetano Jr. sitting in Freehold Borough. The judge who heard the original case has retired.
The appellate decision states that the re-sentencing should be done “without consideration of aggravating factor #3 and with consideration of mitigating factors #8 and #9." Specific reasons were not offered.
According to New Jersey sentencing law,
- Aggravating Factor 3 is "the risk of reoffending."
- Mitigating Factor 8 is "the defendant's conduct was the result of circumstances
unlikely to recur."
- Mitigating Factor 9 is "the defendant's character and attitude indicate an
unlikelihood of reoffending."
The timing of the re-sentencing is especially emotional because Marissa would have turned 18 on Friday.
Procopio says she will go into court armed well prepared to fight any possible reduction in Marletta's sentence with a letter from the mother of one of the teens in Marletta's car. She also said she will bring a letter from the woman who received Marissa's heart as an organ donor.
And she will present Falcetano with an online petition created by a friend.
"This is a crime that should not be taken lightly. The order of events prove that this woman is not good for society and I believe that the children who were in the car are much better off without this woman influencing decision making and lessons in their lives," the petition says.
Marletta's hearing is scheduled for Dec. 15.
A message for Marletta's attorney has not yet been returned.