A Monmouth County man was sentenced today for driving a vehicle while under the influence of Ambien, causing a head-on collision resulting in the death of a Little Silver principal in 2008. 

Don E. Merce (Photo via Facebook, In loving memory of Mr. Don E. Merce)
Don E. Merce (Photo via Facebook page "In loving memory of Mr. Don E. Merce")

US Attorney Paul Frishman said in a news release that Dennis Smentkowski, 47, earlier pleaded guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the case and was today sentenced to 41 months in prison with 3 years of supervised release.

Smentkowski admitted ingesting nearly four times the recommended dosage of Zolpidem, commonly known as Ambien, an hour or so before the collision.

In the early-morning hours of May 6, 2008 Smentowski was driving his Ford Explorer on Oceanport Avenue when he crossed the double line and collided head-on with a vehicle being driven by Principal Don Merce, who was on his way to work at Markham Place School in Little Silver.

Mr. Merce died instantly from injuries. Smentkowski admitted disregarding the safety and lives of others by driving the vehicle while under the influence of the sleeping drug in the morning, according to court documents filed and statements made in court.

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