NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A 40-year-old New Brunswick landlord pleaded guilty in the deadly hit-and-run of a bicyclist that took place more than three years ago, but still faces charges of murdering a young man in 2014.
Timothy Puskas pleaded guilty on August 31 to a count of second-degree vehicular homicide, admitting he was driving the vehicle that killed 26-year-old city resident Leonel Lopez Hernandez on January 25, 2012.
According to a Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office press release, Hernandez, a husband and father of two young children, was riding his bike home from Bristol-Myers Squibb, where he worked as a custodian when he was struck by an SUV driven by Puskas on Georges Road.
While out on bail, Puskas was accused of killing another person who he did not personally know, and is still facing murder and other charges in connection with the death of William McCaw, a 22-year-old former Rutgers student.
According to New Brunswick Today’s Jacob Bracey, McCaw’s body was found in the backyard of a home located on 28 Hartwell Street in New Brunswick.
Puskas, who lived at 60 Plum Street, rented rooms out in that house and and owned another rental property in the neighborhood. Sources told New Brunswick Today that he used the rental income to fund his worsening addictions to alcohol and drugs.
He was arrested in March and indicted in May on the charges that he killed McCaw on February 15, 2014. McCaw went to high school in Hillsborough, and attended Rutgers University for several years before transferring to Kean University.
According to the Middlesex County Medical Examiner’s Office, McCaw died of blunt force trauma. Puskas has pleaded not guilty in that case.
In addition to murder, Puskas was charged with unlawful possession of a weapon, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and two counts of hindering his own apprehension or prosecution.
The MCPO release made no mention of the McCaw case, but stated that Puskas was arrested and charged with the hit-and-run on January 27, 2012, two days after the fatal crash.
The release said those charges came following an “intensive investigation” by Officer Hector Lugo of the New Brunswick Police Department and Detective Greg Morris and Lt. Paul Miller, both of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.
The investigation determined that Puskas was driving a 1998 Toyota 4Runner heading towards North Brunswick when he crossed into the oncoming traffic lane and struck Hernandez, who was on the side of the road near the intersection of Georges Road and South Talmadge Street.
The police said Hernandez was pronounced dead at the scene.
Under a plea agreement reached with Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Sheree Pitchford, Puskas is expected to be sentenced to serve eight years in a New Jersey state prison.
In addition, he will be required to serve at least 85% of the prison term before he will be eligible for parole.
The sentencing is set for October 14 before Superior Court Judge Diane Pincus in New Brunswick.
A co-defendant in the case, 38-year-old Stephen Gallo of Milltown previously pleaded guilty to a charge of hindering the apprehension of Puskas by helping hide the Toyota 4Runner.
Gallo, who was a passenger in the Toyota on the night of the hit-and-run incident, is expected to be sentenced to serve a probationary term of up to five years. No sentencing date has been set for him.