Union Township man indicted for alcohol-fueled wreck that killed off-duty Hillside officer

Ricardo Dos-Santos

A Union County grand jury has returned a two-count indictment against the local man alleged to be responsible for the alcohol-related motor vehicle collision that took the life of his passenger, an off-duty Hillside police officer, last autumn, acting Union County Prosecutor Jennifer Davenport announced Wednesday.

Ricardo Dos-Santos, 29, of Union Township was indicted on charges of first-degree aggravated manslaughter and first-degree vehicular homicide in connection with the death of 30-year-old Giovanni Esposito.

At approximately 2:15 a.m. on Monday, October 15, 2018, members of the Linden Police Department responded to the area of U.S. Routes 1&9 and Pleasant Street in Linden on a report of a serious motor vehicle crash and found Dos-Santos and Esposito suffering from serious injuries at the scene, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Armando Suarez, who is prosecuting the case. Both injured men were transported to University Hospital in Newark, where Esposito was pronounced dead shortly after arriving, Suarez said. Dos-Santos was released two days later.

A joint investigation by the Union County Homicide Task Force and the Linden Police Department Traffic Bureau – led by Task Force Sgt. Andrew Dellaquila and Detective Richard Acosta, along with Linden Investigator Jimmy Solano – revealed that Dos-Santos’s blood-alcohol level was nearly triple the legal limit of 0.08 about an hour after the Acura SUV he was driving collided with the rear portion of a commercial truck that had been stopped at a red light.

The investigation determined that the SUV was traveling at an estimated 90 mph at the time of impact.  

Dos-Santos was arrested without incident and criminally charged in January. He was also cited for driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, careless driving, speeding, failure to observe a traffic signal, and failure to wear a seat belt.

Convictions on aggravated manslaughter charges are commonly punishable by 10 to 30 years in state prison, while convictions on first-degree vehicular homicide can result in terms of 10 to 20 years.

These criminal charges are mere accusations. Each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.