Burlco prosecutor appeals tossing of evidence

Shannon Sidorek faces homicide charge.
Shannon Sidorek faces homicide charge.
Posted: January 18, 2014

MOUNT HOLLY The Burlington County prosecutor is appealing a court ruling that tossed out the evidence in a vehicular homicide case in which a deacon in a Moorestown church was killed last year.

In an eight-page decision released this week, Superior Court Judge Terence R. Cook said a police officer investigating the two-car crash in Pemberton improperly searched the purse of one of the drivers without obtaining a search warrant.

The officer found three bottles of prescription pills, a finding later used to indict Shannon Sidorek, 31, of Pemberton Township, in the death of Elizabeth Smith, 81, of Moorestown, a deacon at First Presbyterian Church there.

"This defendant needs to be held accountable for her actions on the night of Feb. 28, 2012. Accordingly, I have authorized my staff to file an appeal based upon what we believe is an erroneous interpretation of existing precedent," Prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi said in a statement Thursday.

Sidorek was charged with vehicular homicide and possession of a controlled dangerous substance. The charges would be more difficult to prove if the evidence is inadmissible.

A Pemberton police officer testified during a hearing to suppress the evidence that he conducted the search because Sidorek was unconscious and he wanted to find her identification.

After seeing the pill bottles, the officer asked the hospital treating Sidorek to test her blood, which authorities said contained morphine and OxyContin.

Police said Sidorek was under the influence when she drove her vehicle into the oncoming lane and struck Smith's car on the Pemberton Bypass.

But the judge said Sidorek had regained consciousness before she was taken to the hospital and the officer violated her rights by not asking her for permission to search.

"He did not have probable cause" and failed to get a warrant, Cook wrote after Sidorek's lawyer, Kevin Walker, a public defender, filed the motion to suppress.

Cook also suppressed the blood test results and Sidorek's cellphone records, calling them "the fruits of the poisonous tree."

Assistant Prosecutor Stephen Eife had argued that "a credential search" is an exception to the requirement for obtaining a warrant and that Sidorek's blood tests should be admissible because they would inevitably have been produced during preparation for trial.


jhefler@phillynews.com856-779-3224 @JanHefler www.inquirer.com/burlcobuzz

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