PARAMUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The man accused of running over a New Jersey woman in Pennsylvania made some incredible claims about the incident on Tuesday, the same day friends and family turned out for her funeral.
There were tears and hugs in Paramus as hundreds of people came to say goodbye to 20-year-old Gabrielle Reuveni.
She was killed jogging while on vacation with her family on Saturday when she was hit by a pickup truck, driven by 48-year-old Phillip Cise, of Dover, N.J.
Cise, who stood before a judge on Tuesday on unrelated charges, spoke exclusively to CBS 2’s Don Dahler as he was being led into court in Bedminster.
Dahler: “Do you have anything to say to her family?”
Cise: “Yes, I’m very sorry that she lost her sneaker in the driving lane that I was following in, she was spooked by the car behind me and she jumped out of the way back into the passenger’s side.”
Dahler: “You’re saying it’s her fault?”
Cise: “No. It’s nobody’s fault.”
Police told Dahler that they have had their eyes on Cise for some time, but they’ve never had serious enough charges against him to lock him up or keep him off the streets. When they heard what happened this past weekend, they were as devastated as anyone.
For the many friends and family members of Reuveni, the day was almost unbearable.
“I wish you could have met her. She had some kind of spark about her. Being in her presence, I mean, she was just a great person to be around,” said friend Mathew Wolfson.
Some of her cross-country teammates also traveled all the way from St. Louis to attend her funeral. Reuveni was studying international affairs at Washington University in St. Louis and was also a member of the cross country team there.
“She was one of a kind. She was incredibly friendly, outgoing, positive — always there for everyone on the team no matter what,” said teammate Sarah Fisher.
Reuveni was also a cross-country star at Paramus High School as well as the 2010 class valedictorian. Her father, Michael Reuveni, said his daughter’s legacy will inspire others.
“She loved life, she loved people,” he said. “She has touched more people in 20 years than most of us can hope in a lifetime. There is not a soul on this Earth that can say a bad word about Gabrielle. She was a magnificent human being with so much potential.”
1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports
Police are awaiting the results of toxicology tests before filing any charges.
“That guy just mowed her down,” Michael Reuveni said. “She didn’t even know what hit her.”
“It makes no sense someone this young should be taken, it makes no sense,” mother Jacqueline Reuveni said.
Witnesses told police they saw his pick-up truck swerving and crossing the double yellow line prior to the fatality, CBS 2′s Emily Smith reported.
Earlier this month, Cise was arrested on a weapons charge, Smith reported. Cise harassed a McDonald’s drive-through customer with an ax because she cut him in line, police said.
“If you show up with an ax at a fast food restaurant, there is a problem. Why was he not prevented from driving?” said Gabby’s father Michael Reuveni.
Reuveni’s family is furious that Cise was released by authorities, 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reported.
“It’s killing me on the inside,” Michael Reuveni said. “My daughter is dead, she’s dead, and he’s still running loose.”
“If the American justice system had done what it was supposed to do then my sister would still be alive and she would’ve said ‘Good night’ to me last night,” Gabby’s brother, Zach, said.
Authorities in Bedminster told Sandberg the judge has agreed to remand Cise indefinitely pending a psych evaluation.
Cise is being held on $3,000 bond in Somerset County, CBS 2’s Dahler reported. Morris County has also levied a $75,000 bond on him, Dahler reported.