Man admits to fatal hit-and-run, attempted cover-up

A Middlesex County man has admitted to striking and killing a female pedestrian in Linden in 2017, then fleeing the scene of the crime and attempting to cover it up, acting Union County Prosecutor Michael A. Monahan announced Tuesday.

Michael Nicholson, 52, of the Colonia section of Woodbridge, pleaded guilty Monday to charges including leaving the scene of a fatal accident and witness tampering in connection with the death of 62-year-old Donna Babbs of  the Vauxhall section of Union Township.

At approximately 1 p.m. on Thursday, August 24, 2017, Nicholson was driving a 2001 Nissan Altima east on East St. Georges Avenue (Route 27)  in Linden when he disregarded a red light at the intersection with Washington Avenue just as Babbs was wheeling a piece of luggage across the street, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Colleen Ruppert, who prosecuted the case.

Nicholson initially stopped, got out of his vehicle, and walked over to Babbs, then immediately returned to his car, removed her piece of luggage from underneath the bumper, and sped away, Ruppert said. Shortly thereafter Babbs was pronounced dead at the scene.

Nicholson abandoned his car in Newark, then unsuccessfully attempted to convince an acquaintance to help him by withholding evidence from police. But by that point a fast-moving investigation by the Linden Police Department Traffic Bureau, assisted by the Union County Homicide Task Force and the police departments in Bound Brook, Perth Amboy, Roselle, and Woodbridge, resulted in him being identified as a suspect, and he was arrested at his home without incident within hours of the crash.

The State will request a term of seven years in state prison for Nicholson upon sentencing, which has been scheduled to take place on Friday, February 8 before state Superior Court Judge Lisa Miralles Walsh.