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Tyrone man on trial for vehicular homicide in Huntingdon County

Witnesses testified Tuesday that a Tyrone man charged with homicide by vehicle while DUI was driving at the time of the crash which killed a passenger.
The commonwealth concluded yesterday afternoon with presentation of its case against Jason Crowell, 24, who also faces charges of DUI and other motor vehicle violations from the April 14, 2005 one-vehicle crash on Route 45, Franklin Township.
The jury was expected to get the case following closing argument this morning. Crowell told the court (without the jury present) he had decided not to take the witness stand.
“I can assure you tomorrow morning you will be deliberating,” Judge Stewart Kurtz told the jury as the first day of the proceeding concluded, shortly before 4 p.m.
Crowell is represented by Blair County attorney Tom Forr.
The defense did not call witnesses yesterday. The commonwealth’s case consisted of testimony from two passengers in the car (Tyrone residents Duane Day and Scott Borgess — brother of the woman killed in the crash), investigating state troopers, emergency responders and a woman who lives near the crash site.
Four witnesses testified Crowell was driving at the time Day’s 1996 Mitsubishi Eclipse went off the roadway and partly over a guide rail.
Sharon Reed, 18, of Warriors Mark, was killed in the crash after she was ejected from the back seat of the car and it came to rest on top of her. She was pronounced dead at the crash scene. The crash occurred shortly before midnight.
Day was also ejected through the rear window, police reported. State police reported a blood alcohol test showed Crowell had a BAC of .14 percent. Crowell and Borgess did not have drivers licenses at the time.
Thirteen visitors were seated on the commonwealth’s side of the courtroom while eight family members were seated behind Crowell.
In his opening remarks, Huntingdon County District Attorney Robert Stewart III told the jury that “just because the case is short doesn’t mean it isn’t serious.”
“He was at two times the legal limit. He was driving. He caused the accident,” Stewart said of Crowell.
Forr asked the jury to use its “collective common sense” and said the commonwealth can’t show beyond a reasonable doubt that Crowell was driving and said the commonwealth’s witnesses, the ones in the car that night, have “something to lose” in this case.
Day testified first for the commonwealth. He said he and Crowell had been drinking beer at his brother’s Blair Avenue apartment following a day of work there remodeling the living space.
He testified Mrs. Reed and Borgess stopped by and the four drove to a six pack shop so he and Crowell could get more beer. He said he then drove to Sinking Valley on back roads and that Borgess drove the car for about 10 minutes before Crowell took over the driving.
“Is there any doubt in your mind as to who was driving at the time of the accident?” Stewart asked.
Day answered “no” and stated where everybody was in the vehicle at the time of the crash, with Crowell driving; Borgess “shotgun” beside Crowell; and he and Reed in the back seat.
Day said he didn’t recall Borgess or Reed drinking at the apartment or in the vehicle but saw them smoking marijuana at the apartment.
Records entered into evidence showed Reed had ingested marijuana at some point prior to the crash.
Borgess, 17, (16 at the time of the accident) testified next but stated he and his sister smoked “a pipe” of marijuana together earlier that day, prior to going to the apartment. He said both he and Reed drank at the apartment.
Borgess testified Crowell was driving at the time of the crash and said everyone in the car asked him to slow down just before the crash. Crowell said he felt a jolt and then awoke to hear Reed yelling and attempted, unsuccessfully, to move the car which was upended over the guide rail. Borgess said he then blacked out and next remembers talking with Reed’s husband who had responded with the fire police.
Cross examined by Forr, both Borgess and Day said they don’t remember exactly what roads they traveled on or for how long. Forr asked both witnesses if it isn’t also true that they don’t have a good memory of what happened that night.
Borgess testified that there was no stop at a Tyrone six-pack shop but that there was already beer in the back seat of the vehicle when they all went for a ride. He told Forr the marijuana he and his sister used was his but said he didn’t know where he got it.
Forr asked Day if he had a civil suit against Crowell or had contacted an insurance company about the crash and Day said he had, but then said he did not have a suit against Crowell. Asked by Stewart if he knew what a civil suit is, Day said “no.”
A Spruce Creek resident testified the accident happened about one-eighth of a mile from her home. She said the three survivors had called 911 on a cell phone but said she had to talk to the operator because they were not able to give their location to emergency responders.
A state police accident reconstructionist, testifying as an expert witness, said his investigation showed the vehicle had to be traveling between 62 and 77 mile per hour in the 55 mph zone and would not have been able to negotiate the curve on that section of Route 45 at that speed. He said a delay in the motorist beginning to turn into the curve is consistent with impairment by alcohol.
A paramedic with AMED of Altoona testified that Crowell complained of chest pain and that the type of injury he complained of is consistent with injury from impacting a steering wheel. An AMED EMT said he talked to Crowell in the course of responding to the crash.
“He (Crowell) told me he was the driver,” the EMT said.
Also called by Stewart to testify yesterday were Dr. Harry Kamerow, a pathologist who testified as an expert witness, and state police trooper Kenneth Butler, the investigating officer.
Asked by Stewart what his investigation revealed, Butler said, “The defendant was behind the wheel.”