It was only a fender-bender, but for accused killer Glenn Hansen, it was the first chink in the story he was telling detectives about the disappearance of girlfriend Taneke Daniels.
Bryant Hoar, a New Jersey State Police detective, told a Common Pleas Court jury Friday about the June 8, 2006, questioning of Hansen, 47, in the Center City high-rise office of his then-attorney Martin L. Trichon.
Hoar said Hansen repeated the story about how Daniels, 27, a mother of three with a history of drug problems, left his Overbrook apartment about 5 a.m. May 12, 2005, after packing her clothing following a breakup.
Hansen said that she was picked up by a white SUV and driven away and that he never again saw or heard from her. Hansen said he had no idea how Daniels' corpse came to be buried in a shallow grave in the Pine Barrens.
"He said he'd never been to a state forest in New Jersey," Hoar testified.
So Hoar said he asked Hansen if he could explain a traffic accident he had had in Burlington County in October 2005.
"He remained quiet and started looking down and did not respond," Hoar said. "The interview was terminated by his attorney."
The accident, corroborated in videotaped testimony by Medford Township Police officer Robert Carbone, occurred at 10:19 a.m. Oct. 22, 2005, on Route 70 on the border of Medford and Woodland Townships.
It was a short distance from the entrance to the Brendan T. Byrne State Forest, where Daniels' body was discovered April 24, 2006. And the date corresponded to one of two dates that Hansen's sister, Kelly, testified that she accompanied her brother to Daniels' secret grave.
Hoar's testimony ended the first week of Hansen's trial on charges of murder and abuse of corpse. The trial resumes Monday before Common Pleas Court Judge Shelley Robins New, when Assistant District Attorney Gail Fairman is expected to finish her case.
Kelly Hansen testified Thursday that her brother confided in her that he had smothered Daniels on May 12, 2005, to prevent her from testifying against him at an impending domestic-abuse trial.
Hansen's attorneys, Timothy J. Tarpey and Michael P. Parkinson, have argued that Kelly Hansen, who has been granted immunity from prosecution, is lying because she feared being charged as an accomplice.
The defense cited Kelly Hansen's first statement to detectives in which she said Hansen told her that Daniels had died of a drug overdose and that he had panicked and buried her.
On Friday, the defense got some limited support from Burlington County Medical Examiner Ian Hood, who testified about the 2006 postmortem exam of Daniels' largely skeletal corpse by his predecessor, Dante Ragasa.
Hood, formerly Philadelphia's chief medical examiner, disagreed with Ragasa's finding that Daniels had been suffocated.
Ragasa cited a plastic bag covering Daniels' face and a break in a neck vertebrae.
Hood said smothering would not cause a neck bone to break. Hood said he believed the broken bone was the result of whiplash from an old auto accident. That accident also left Daniels with a broken nose and surgical pins holding together a broken ankle.
But Hood also said there was no evidence of illicit drugs in what remained of the body. And he, like Ragasa, said Daniels had been murdered.
"Absolutely," Hood testified, adding that he had never heard of a drug-overdose victim's being buried with such preparation and secrecy.
"I've seen hundreds of drug dumps," Hood said. "Usually, they are simply left in place."