Vehicular homicide charges held for court
A Uniontown man will face charges of homicide by vehicle, reckless driving and other vehicle violations in Fayette County court.
The charges stem from a collision in which Robert Matthew Kelley, 21, of 550 Walnut Hill Road, driving a 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt along Upper Middletown Road, struck a utility pole at 11:25 p.m. May 2, 2009.
Kelley's passenger, Jonathan A. Kondrla, 16, of German Township was pronounced dead at the scene.
Both Kelley and Kondrla were not wearing seat belts, and an injured Kelley had to be extracted from the vehicle.
At Kelley's preliminary hearing yesterday, Fayette County Assistant District Attorney Doug Sepic questioned Robert Herring of Smock, who witnessed the collision. Herring testified he was outside when he first heard Kelley's vehicle before the collision.
"It sounded like someone traveling at a high rate of speed," Herring said, adding that his girlfriend, who was outside with him, said it sounded like the car wasn't going to stop.
They watched as the vehicle passed the posted stop sign at the intersection of Upper Middletown Road and Old Pittsburgh Road, hit a hump in the road, go airborne and strike a utility pole, shearing the pole in half and causing a power box to explode and wires to come down and burn on the roadway.
Herring said a pine tree obstructs a motorist's view of the stop sign until they're about 20 feet from it, but that there is also a sign beforehand warning about the stop sign.
Tpr. John Weaver of the state police at Uniontown, with Troop B's Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Unit, testified that after performing a co-efficiency friction calculation, which represents a degree of friction between two objects and an airborne calculation to configure airborne distance, they were able to conservatively estimate Kelley's speed between 76.8 and 97.8 miles per hour and that the vehicle went airborne for a distance of 65 feet.
The posted speed limit on that section of Middletown Road is 35 miles per hour.
Weaver also testified that after removing the vehicle's system diagnostic module -- a device that calibrates changes in velocity and can trigger airbag deployment -- they were able to determine that the only change of velocity by 40.2 miles per hour, which was at the point of impact.
Weaver said they found that the five-gear manual transmission of the Cobalt was at top gear and the Cobalt's engine's revolutions per minute were at 400,608 RPMs five seconds before impact and at 400,160 RPMs three seconds before impact, which further verified the speed calculation.
Also, Weaver said there were no skid marks evident at the scene.
Kelley's attorney, John Kopas, asked Weaver if the hump or crown in the road was the factor in the collision.
"No. Speed was the factor," Weaver answered. "If the crown of the road was a factor, we'd be out there every day mapping fatal accidents."
Kopas asked District Judge Joseph M. George Jr. to dismiss Kelley from any responsibility because the testimony from both Herring and Weaver had no depth or established any causation.
"Going through a stop sign didn't stop the collision," Kopas said.
Sepic argued that because Kelley's lowest estimated speed was over double the posted speed limit, that constitutes gross negligence and asked that all charges be held for court.
Based on Weaver's testimony, George agreed to hold the charges of homicide by vehicle, failure to stop at stop and yield signs, driving vehicle at an unsafe speed, careless driving and reckless driving for county court.
Kelley, who is free on a continued bond, will have a hearing at 9:30 a.m. March 18 in Courtroom One at the Fayette County Courthouse.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates star McCutchen marries in private ceremony
- Pine-Richland’s ‘Neil’ the ram has happy home
- Pa. bear hunters off to good start
- Hockey loses pair of legendary figures in Quinn, Tikhonov
- Grand jury reaches decision in Ferguson shooting
- U.S. Steel to relocate corporate headquarters on former Civic Arena site
- Two judges with Pittsburgh ties announce candidacies for Pa. Supreme Court
- Turnpike employees disciplined over sexually explicit emails
- Pitt football notebook: Athletic department seeking fans’ input
- High winds knock out power, injure man at Cranberry construction site
- Google lunar contest: Pittsburgh team unveils rover