Their names were Christina and Jacqueline Becker. Their lives were just beginning -- and then they were over in an instant.
Christina and Jacqueline were the only two children of Maria Caiafa, and the youngest of four generations of women in a close-knit, big hearted Italian family from Cape May County, N.J. Jacqueline was 17, a senior in high school, and 19-year-old Christina was a junior in college. But their lives came to a tragic end on Sept. 27, 2006.
The girls were staying with their grandparents, Geraldine and Cesar Caiafa. Around 10 p.m., they went to pick up milk at the local convenience store. Jacqueline and Christina were driving a half-mile back to their grandparents' house, when another driver was tearing down the road, traveling at least 60 miles an hour, nearly double the speed limit.
Robert Taylor, who was stopped on the other side of the road with his son Michael witnessed what happened next. "I saw a car coming at extreme speed," he said. "And I was just thinking to myself, 'When is he going to slow down?' And he gets 20 yards from the intersection, and he puts his foot to the floor, and he just accelerates."
The car sped through the stop sign and exploded into the driver's side of Jacqueline and Christina's minivan. The minivan was hit with such force it was pushed at least 130 feet up the road. The Taylor's car was also destroyed, but somehow they were barely hurt.
In a bizarre coincidence, Cesar and Geraldine Caiafa drove by the accident scene, and when they arrived home, their minivan wasn't in the driveway. Cesar suspected that something was wrong, so the Caiafa's decided to call their daughter Maria -- the girls' mother. She rushed to the scene, and all three of them stood waiting.
"I looked at the cop. I said, 'That van that's up the road there, I think it's my van. Can I just go look at it?'" Cesar said.
The family said they were left to wait for three hours, and weren't given any information about their girls. There were two bodies covered by sheets, laying next to the mangled minivan. In their hearts, the Caiafa's knew the tragic truth.
Maria's world was instantly shattered. "I want to actually just curl up in a ball and die," she said. "But I can't, because I feel like every minute I have to speak out and fight for my children." Her only two children were gone, and the family had no idea who had been driving the car that killed them, until they picked up the newspaper the next morning.
The family said they were shocked to find out that the man who ran the stop sign was a New Jersey state trooper named Robert Higbee. Higbee claims he was going after another driver who was speeding.
The trooper was given a ticket for running a stop sign and assigned to desk duty pending a state criminal investigation. But from the beginning this case has been more than just a tragic accident. The sisters' deaths have raised questions about the broader issues of high-speed police pursuits.
"The issue is that when you are driving in a car, you have to abide by the laws," said Maria. "We have to act with caution and concern for the people that are on the road."
More that 300 people a year in the United States are killed in high-speed police chases. One third of them are innocent bystanders. But cops involved in high-speed chases are rarely criminally charged.