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Police: SUV ran light before fatal Penn Hills chase

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By Bobby Kerlik and Margaret Harding
Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012

When Kayla Hoffman ran a red light in Penn Hills on Saturday afternoon, she was on probation in two counties, had drugs in her sport utility vehicle and didn't have a valid driver's license, police said Monday.

When an officer attempted to pull her over, police said Hoffman, 28, of New Kensington sped off and almost immediately plowed head-on into a car driven by Kayla Johnson-Ukeyne, 25, of Penn Hills, killing her less than a half-mile from her home.

Allegheny County police Sgt. Scott Scherer said yesterday that Hoffman, who was paroled from jail in December, likely will be charged with homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, fleeing and eluding, drug possession and driving with a suspended license stemming from the crash on Verona Road near the Sandy Creek Road intersection.

An attorney for Hoffman could not be reached. People at Johnson-Ukeyne's home declined to comment yesterday.

"I looked in the rearview mirror and I saw police lights. I pulled over but (Hoffman) almost hit me," said Shelley Mitchell of Verona, who was driving on Verona Road when the pursuit went by her. "I started driving again and all I saw was white smoke.

"Then I saw the young lady dead," Mitchell said, choking up. "Just to see that — she was dead — just the way the car was smashed and she was in it. It was so sad. I've been praying and thinking about her family."

Hoffman remained hospitalized with a broken ankle and pelvis. Scherer said she was in possession of a minor amount of unspecified drugs, and police were investigating whether drugs were a factor in the crash.

A passenger in Hoffman's sport utility vehicle, Tomarro Wade, 42, of New Kensington, suffered head injuries in the crash. A family member said she was sore but out of the hospital.

Court records show Hoffman has dozens of convictions stemming from at least 15 cases in Westmoreland and Allegheny counties. Her record in Westmoreland County stretches back to 2005 and includes several drug arrests. Common Pleas Judge John Blahovec sentenced her in April to 11 12 to 23 months in jail after she pleaded guilty to three drug-related charges. He paroled her Dec. 21, court records show.

She pleaded guilty in July to unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and driving without a license. Her sentence did not add any time to her jail stay.

In September, she pleaded guilty in Allegheny County to promoting prostitution and was sentenced to two to four months in jail. In April, she was sentenced to three to six months in jail and 18 months of probation for her guilty plea to five charges, including possession of drug paraphernalia. Her sentence did not add any time to her jail stay.

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