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Driver charged with vehicular homicide in Paramus woman’s death

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

After a three-month wait for the toxicology results, authorities in Pennsylvania have charged a Morris County man whose truck struck and killed 20-year-old Gabrielle Reuveni of Paramus with vehicular homicide while under the influence of a controlled substance.

Philip J. Cise, 48, is also charged with driving under the influence of an as-yet unidentified drug.

Police in Palmyra, Pa., needed the results of a blood test to determine how to charge Cise in connection with the July 14 death of the 2010 Paramus High School valedictorian, who was out for a run in the Poconos when she was struck.

Witnesses told police that Cise’s red Chevy Colorado swerved into the oncoming lane, then drifted onto the shoulder, where it hit Reuveni, a track star attending Washington University in St. Louis.

Cise, who calls himself “Firefighter Phil,” had been arrested no fewer than four times around the time of the crash.

One involved him swinging an ax at a McDonalds drive-through. Another time, Cise was taken into custody twice after police said he caused disturbances at Donald Trump’s Bedminster golf course in Somerset County. He was also charged with stealing a truck in Morris County.

Then came the fatal crash.

Reuveni was out jogging near her family’s lakeview summer retreat when she was struck around 12:30 on a Saturday afternoon.

Her father said Cise was drunk and “lost control of his car at high speed.”

The following night, Cise was again behind the wheel of a vehicle that hit a utility pole in Lake Hiawatha.

He wasn’t hurt, police said, but a computer check turned up an outstanding warrant out of Bedminster on the disturbance-related charges. He was placed in the custody of police there.

Cise has since been been held in the Somerset County Jail, charged with contempt, defiant trespassing and offensive touching in connection with the incidents.

Philip Cise

He has an extensive criminal past.

He was once charged with what authorities said was a bogus fundraiser for the families of 9/11 victims.  This came after he claimed to be a third-generation firefighter who heard about the plane crashes on 9/11 and raced 22 miles into the city — asserations that authorities have said are bogus.

CLIFFVIEW PILOT was the first to report about Cise’s history, as well as people’s concerns over his mental stability.

“My sorrow to the [Reuveni] family for such a horrific event,” a friend of Cise’s told the website. However, he said, Cise “is a mentally ill man suffering from [s]chizophrenia and [b]ipolar disorder.

“For many years after 911 hit, Phil lost his mind and had several battles to keep himself in good standing,” the friend said. “It is very hard for these kinds of people. It is a mental disorder and depression doesn’t help it.

“He actually was a firefighter and ran his own tree service for over 20 years until he got sick.”

An employee at a Rockaway Township business said merchants in town knew Cise.

“He came into the store just to chat and was very strange, weird,” she told CLIFFVIEW PILOT tonight. “I didn’t feel like I was talking to a ‘normal’ person and was sort of humoring him..

“I Google’d his name from the article and saw more pictures of him and realized it was the same person. On a few occasions I saw him outside the store and I didn’t want to talk to him,” the worker said, “so I quickly locked the door and went in the back so he didn’t see me.

“He didn’t scare me. I just didn’t want to talk to him.”

Cise was arrested in November 2001 after police said he purported to be a fireman collecting donations for a memorial for 9/11 victims and then threatened an officer who challenged his claims.

The charges apparently were dropped, a source with knowledge of the incident told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

Records show that Cise — who spent some time as a volunteer with the Summit Fire Department —  got off with probation in 2002.

CBS News later pulled a segment it aired about him and what he described as efforts to have a memorial built on five acres of donated land in Allamuchy Township, just off Route 80.

It would be called “Remembrance Park,” said Cise, who originally claimed to have been at Ground Zero by using a photograph of another firefighter wearing an air mask but, according to officials, wasn’t really there.

Cise was oddly dressed in oversized firefighter’s pants and suspenders when he did the Channel 2 interview, explaining how he’d been working with a since-deceased painter from Tewksburywho created a portrait he said would become the memorial’s centerpiece.

The artist, Mari Watts Hitchcock, later severed her ties with Cise after discovering that his “Firefighter Phil Foundation” didn’t exist.

The most recent employment found for Cise online is with a defunct tree-cutting service out of Sparta that was created in 1960. Hitchcock apparently contacted him about a tree on her property that she thought needed attention. Soon after, he enlisted her in the purported memorial project.

A month before the fatal crash, Cise was in Tennessee, where he told a local newspaper he was working on a book about 9/11.

“She was the purest beauty, but not the common kind. She had a way about her, that made you feel alive. And for a moment, she made the world stand still.” We Own the Night , Lady Antebellum (with thanks to Kelsey Revicki)

FROM: In Memory of Gabby Reuveni

Gabrielle Beth, born on February 1, 1992. A beautiful, loving, angel who always saw the best in others. She took the world by storm. Gabrielle grew up in Paramus, attended the Paramus school system. She was the Paramus High School valedictorian 2010. Captain of the cross country and track teams, president of the National Honor Society. She attended Washington University in St. Louis. She was a member of their track and cross country team, tour guide of the school, Alpha Phi sorority member. She had many friends and touched everyone that she came in contact with. She wanted to make the world better for all. She studied international affairs, concentrating on regional sustainability with a minor in Spanish.

(from her obituary)

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