Barnegat Man Sentenced for Reckless Manslaughter

Sep 28, 2016

A Barnegat Township man who in July pleaded guilty to a charge of reckless manslaughter in connection with an incident at the Lighthouse Tavern in Waretown more than four years ago was sentenced to seven years in prison Sept. 23. Superior Court Judge Wendel E. Daniels also ordered Michael Lombardo, 41, to pay $6,256 to the family of Robert Bethanis, who had been beaten unconscious by Lombardo on the night of St. Patrick’s Day in 2012.

Michel A. Paulhus, executive assistant prosecutor, said Lombardo told the judge during his guilty plea that he punched Bethanis in the head several times and also kicked him in the torso while the victim was unresponsive. Lombardo was free on $200,000 bail pending sentencing.

Bethanis died more than two years later, on Sept. 19, 2014, at 46, of complications from an emergency tracheotomy performed on him to save his life on the night he was beaten. Paulhus said the victim’s life was saved by paramedics who drove by the tavern that night. They were flagged down by police who were already on the scene.

Bethanis, who had been employed as a mechanic for Stafford Township, was taken to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune. He underwent a tracheotomy and remained hospitalized there until June 5, 2012, Paulhus said.

Paulhus said Bethanis was brain-damaged and unable to breathe without a ventilator. He said Bethanis spent extended time in a rehabilitation facility, and was hospitalized several more times because of complications from the tracheotomy. Paulhus said he was receiving care at home when he died.

The victim died shortly before Lombardo was going to stand trial for the original charge of attempted murder. Paulhus said that because the complaint was upgraded to murder, the case had to be presented to a new grand jury, which handed up the murder indictment. —E.E.

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