Woman Pleads Guilty on Manslaughter Charges for Pool Drowning

by Al DellaFave, OCPO

POINT PLEASANT-Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato announced today the guilty plea of Jelani Webster, 19, of Trenton, in connection with the drowning death of Anijyah Price, 23, of Newark, NJ, at the Beach Amethyst Motel in Point Pleasant Beach in July of 2017.  Webster entered a guilty plea to an accusation charged Manslaughter, a second degree crime, which carries a maximum period of incarceration of up to ten years, subject to the “No Early Release Act”.

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The case was presented to the Ocean County Grand Jury on October 25, 2017.  The Grand Jury returned an indictment for Murder.  The defense filed a motion to dismiss the indictment.  The Court granted the motion to dismiss the indictment April 3, 2018.

This plea agreement resulted from negotiations which took place as the State was preparing the case for presentation to another grand jury.

The investigation revealed that Ms. Price, Ms. Webster and Kyle Thompson had traveled to Point Pleasant Beach on July 10, 2017.  Each of them consumed alcohol throughout the night. They rented a room at the Beach Amethyst motel.  At approximately 5:20 a.m., a 911 call was made by a motel guest reporting that someone was in the pool and not breathing.   The guests were awakened by a knock on their motel door.  The husband of the 911 caller jumped in the pool and pulled Ms. Price out.

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Kyle Thompson stated that he did not observe how Ms. Price ended up in the deep end of the pool as he was walking back to their room when he heard a splash. Upon realizing Ms. Price was in danger, Kyle Thompson, who stated he is unable to swim, directed Ms. Webster to knock on doors to get help.  He climbed down one ladder and tried to reach in as he was still holding onto the ladder himself but was unable to reach Ms. Price.

Investigation uncovered video surveillance showing that Defendant pushed Ms. Price into the deep end of the pool.  During the course of the investigation, it was learned that defendant was aware that Ms. Price could not swim.

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The investigation was conducted by the following: Det. John Murphy and Det. Lindsay Woodfield from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office; Sgt. Clint Daniel, Det. Derek O’Neill and Det. Meany from the Point Pleasant Beach Police Department, and Det. Michael Senger from the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department Crime Scene Unit.

Supervising Assistant Prosecutor Terry Ann Linardakis represented the State.  The defendant was represented by Terrance L. Turnbach, Esquire.

The defendant is scheduled to be sentenced by the Honorable James N. Blaney, J.S.C., on June 29, 2018.