Pennsylvania inmate confesses in Trenton vehicular homicide case

A city man already incarcerated for violent crime in Pennsylvania will serve at least three more years in state prison for striking and killing 44-year-old John Covington in a vicious vehicular homicide in Trenton’s West Ward.

Robert McFadden

Robert McFadden

Robert McFadden, 26, of Trenton, admits he mowed down Covington on the 500 block of Rutherford Avenue near Gregory Elementary School. The reckless death by auto occurred about 7:15 p.m. Jan. 16, 2015.

McFadden slammed into Covington as the victim was crossing the street while pushing a shopping cart, The Trentonian previously reported. Authorities at the time said McFadden was driving while intoxicated but stopped his vehicle and remained at the scene following the deadly crash. 

Authorities in May 2015 filed a complaint warrant charging McFadden with one count of first-degree reckless vehicular homicide on allegations he was intoxicated when he recklessly struck and killed Covington within 1,000 feet of school property.  He posted $150,000 cash bail in the case and used his freedom to commit additional crimes in Pennsylvania, court records show.

McFadden attacked a police officer in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, during summer 2017. In January 2018 he pleaded guilty to multiple offenses in the case, including aggravated assault, possession with intent to deliver heroin, disarming a law enforcement officer without authorization and theft from a motor vehicle, court records show.

McFadden committed those felony offenses in Pennsylvania four months after being indicted in the New Jersey vehicular homicide case. He was sitting in an SUV parked in a no-parking zone when a Bensalem cop ordered him out of the vehicle about 9 a.m. July 29, 2017.

The Trenton man exited the vehicle and tussled with the officer in resistance to arrest. McFadden then threw the officer to the ground, struck him in the head several times, choked the officer and attempted to grab the officer’s service weapon, authorities said.

The injured officer managed to place McFadden under arrest as backup officers arrived. McFadden admits he was stealing items from vehicles in the 1300 block of Neshaminy Avenue before he assaulted the law-enforcement officer that morning. He also admits he stashed heroin inside the SUV with the intent to sell the deadly opioid-based substance.

Judge Jeffrey L. Finley of Pennsylvania sentenced McFadden to a mandatory term of imprisonment ranging from a minimum of three years and a maximum of eight years behind bars. He also ordered McFadden to pay over $5,000 in restitution for the medical expenses of the injured officer, who had suffered cuts on his hands, legs, knees, neck and face and had strangulation marks on his neck from McFadden’s attack, according to the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office.

McFadden is currently incarcerated at Pennsylvania’s medium-security State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. His 2017 violent crimes, property crimes and drug distribution in the Keystone State could have been prevented if he never was allowed to buy his way out of a Garden State jail cell.

Two weeks after McFadden struck and killed John Covington in a Trenton-based vehicular homicide, the victim’s family questioned why authorities allowed the reckless driver to roam free on a summons.

John Covington of Trenton was killed in January when he was struck by a car. (Contributed photo)

John Covington of Trenton was killed in January 2015 when he was struck by a car. (Contributed photo)

“My brother’s dead, and he’s riding around somewhere,” Milton Covington said in a February 2015 interview with The Trentonian. “The officers came to the home and said my brother was dead. They said he was in the morgue and the individual who is the cause of his death is still in the streets. I don’t know who the heck let him go, but he should not have been released.”

Authorities filed vehicular homicide charges against McFadden in May 2015, but he immediately posted 10 percent of his $150,000 cash bail to secure his release. Instead of keeping his nose clean, McFadden in 2017 committed new criminal activities in the Philadelphia suburbs as a self-confessed drug pusher.

McFadden described himself as a drug addict at his Pennsylvania sentencing hearing last year. New Jersey court records show he underwent a mandatory drug court screen in March 2017, but the troubled city man apparently did not get the help he needed as he slipped into additional legal woes.

Pennsylvania defense attorney Sara Webster presented evidence showing McFadden had suffered brain injuries and a severe personality change several years ago from a fall injury he suffered in North Carolina, according to the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office.

“I wasn’t the same person,” McFadden told the Bucks County sentencing judge last year, adding he became addicted to opioids after being prescribed Percocet for back injuries he suffered in a 2013 fall from a balcony, the Bucks County DA’s Office reported in a February 2018 news release. “I cannot use my intoxication as an excuse for my behavior,” McFadden told the court, but “in the right state of mind, I do not think I would have acted out the way that I did.”

McFadden also expressed remorse for his attack on the Bensalem police officer.

“I have much respect for people who put their lives on the line to serve and protect because I have parents and other family members in law enforcement,” McFadden said in a handwritten letter of apology that he read in court, according to the DA’s office. “I don’t know how I would feel if something were to happen to one of them if they got put in a bad situation.”

“I hope that you can look past this thoughtless act and forgive me,” McFadden said in his apology to the cop he callously attacked. “With your forgiveness I feel as though I can move on in my treatment and continue to advance with my future life.”

The remorseful Pennsylvania inmate pleaded guilty last November to second-degree reckless death by auto in his New Jersey vehicular homicide case.

Mercer County Superior Court Judge Peter Warshaw sentenced McFadden to five years of incarceration on Jan. 11. His New Jersey prison sentence is being served concurrent to his Pennsylvania prison sentence, records show.

With jail credit factored in, McFadden will serve at least three more years behind bars. The New Jersey Department of Corrections lists McFadden’s parole eligibility date as April 26, 2022.

In Pennsylvania, McFadden will become eligible for parole consideration after serving his minimum three years of imprisonment there. Parole is not guaranteed in Pennsylvania, where it is considered a privilege and not a right. If denied early release on parole, the Trenton man will end up serving eight hard years in a Keystone State penitentiary.

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