Friday, August 23, 2013

Every now and then I'm reminded that there are two sides to every story. Such is the case with Bradley J. Wolfe, the Flying Hills man charged with third-degree murder, attempted murder and related offenses for a Sept. 5 crash on the Bingaman Street Bridge that claimed the life of Lance Quinones. Wolfe, 32, was held for court after a hearing Wednesday before District Judge Stuart D. Kennedy, Millmont. The case against Bradley is one that, if true, is enough to make one's blood boil.
Upset about the outcome of an assault hearing at the Berks County Courthouse that morning, Bradley allegedly told his estranged wife, Jennifer Wolfe, 34, as they drove home from the courthouse that he was going to steer his car into the next vehicle he saw and kill them both. At the hearing Wednesday, Timothy S. Musser, paramedic deputy chief of Southern Berks EMS, testified he was wheeling Jennifer to an ambulance when she told him Bradley had said he was going to kill them by driving into another car. "She just kind of blurted it out," Musser testified. "She started to whimper and cry a little and then she blurts out, 'He tried to kill us.' Another witness, Justin Blake, testified he was driving south on Fourth Street when he saw Wolfe's silver BMW weaving through traffic, passing cars and going very fast as they approached the sharp right curve onto the bridge. Blake said Wolfe had to be going 45 mph as he entered the bridge and Wolfe's car swerved from the left southbound lane into Quinones' car. Quinones died at the scene. But here's where the case gets a little fuzzy. Blake said it appeared to him that Bradley was trying to avoid hitting Quinones because he was steering back toward the southbound lanes when the two cars collided. "That's because I was trying to get back in my lane," Bradley said in a phone conversation after the hearing. Bradley also insisted he never threatened to kill himself and Jennifer. He said that is why Assistant District Attorney Justin D. Bodor didn't call Jennifer to testify at the preliminary hearing last week. "They knew she was going to deny ever saying those things," Bradley said. Bradley's attorney, Allan L. Sodomsky of Reading, said pretty much the same thing after the hearing when I asked if Jennifer was sticking to the story she gave Musser or if she had recanted. "She didn't testify," Sodomsky said, shrugging. Wait a minute, Sodomsky didn't call her as a witness either. I asked Bodor the same question and he demurred. "Let me just say that we intend to prove Bradley Wolfe acted with malice and forethought when he caused the crash," Bodor said. "It was not an accident." It seemed to me that Jennifer was the only one who could clear things up. But she hasn't returned my phone calls. Two other facts you may want to consider in your deliberations: On Sept. 5, Bradley attended a Berks County Court hearing on an unrelated aggravated assault charge. Two prior assault cases against Bradley, one in 2002 and 2007, were dismissed. But Wolfe is still on parole after being sentenced Jan. 25 to three to 23 months after pleading guilty to the lesser charge of simple assault. He was also ordered to get anger management counseling. Criminal Investigator Michael Perkins confirmed during his testimony that Quinones had THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, in his bloodstream at the time of his death. Now that you've heard both sides of this story, what's your verdict?
Ever since I was a wee lad I’ve been fascinated by the efforts shore communities make to preserve their beaches. I remember standing on the boardwalk at Ninth Street in Ocean City, N.J., watching as tons of sand being pumped from the bay, across town to the beach. If they didn’t dredge the bay and pump sand every few years the beaches would all get washed away like the one at Ninth Street that disappeared under the boardwalk twice a day at high tide that year. I would spend hours building walls of sand waiting for the tide to roll in and wash them away. In the end, the ocean flattened my walls and reclaimed all the sand I shoveled.
Back in May, when I talked to Dr. Edward J. Mahaney Jr., mayor of Cape May, about the cost of the recovery from Sandy he made a pretty good argument for continuing to build up our beaches. Mahaney said tourism in Cape May County alone — from Ocean City south to Cape May — is a $5.1 billion industry that pumped $484 million into New Jersey’s general fund last year. Then last week I saw a story about a seawall that was built on the beach at Bay Head, N.J. The 1,260-meter wall of stone was built in 1882 to protect the town from the furies of the sea. Over more than 120 years, the seawall was covered with sand and eventually forgotten. Forgotten that is until Oct. 29 when Hurricane Sandy scoured the sand off the beaches of northern New Jersey shore towns and in some cases destroyed most of the structures, utilities and roads. Sandy uncovered the Bay Head seawall and a team of engineers and geoscientists think it’s the reason only one structure in Bay Head was destroyed while about 50 percent of adjacent Mantoloking was categorized as destroyed. Sandy stripped away much of the sand at Bay Head but the seawall didn’t budge. Though the water washed over Bay Head the seawall took most of the power out of the waves. But the researchers said the fact the townspeople forgot about their seawall points to the difficulty of protecting at-risk shore communities when their populations are so transient. Sure, vacationers come and go, but all shore towns have a year round population, said former Congressman William J. Hughes, who represented New Jersey’s second district from 1975-95 and championed coastal causes like ending 60 years of dumping sewage into the ocean by New York City and a host of north Jersey towns. “You’ve got to continue to protect our beaches,” Hughes said. “It’s like repaving the roads.” Hughes, who lives in Ocean City, N.J., said Sandy highlighted some of the flaws in local planning and development. “Years ago they probably built houses too close to the ocean,” Hughes said. “Long term planning is extremely important.” Hughes said Ocean City has it’s own seawall buried in the sand on the north end of the island near the foot of the Longport Bridge. “No one knew about that seawall until we had a storm that uncovered it but the seawall did its job,” he said. When another part of the island not protected by the seawall was endangered by rising tides, the former mayor of the town, an undertaker, created a makeshift seawall out of concrete burial vaults and saved the day. It’s a good story but the burial vaults wouldn’t have been needed back then if the town had taken a comprehensive look at protecting all the beaches. Now they have, Hughes said. “Ocean City now has a 50-year plan for beach preservation,” he said. I, for one, am glad to hear it. I’d hate to think all those years of shoveling sand were in vain.