2 charged with serving alcohol to minors who died in Indiana pond
State police allege the owner of an Armstrong County bar erased surveillance tape allegedly showing three underage men drinking alcohol in his bar shortly before their pickup plunged into a pond in Indiana County.
Larry P. Pompelia, 58, of Rural Valley, the owner of the Final Score Saloon on Route 85 in Dayton, was charged Monday with tampering with evidence and unsworn falsification in connection with the drowning deaths of the three men.
Final Score bartender Karly A. Good, 22, of Rural Valley was charged by state police at Indiana with furnishing alcohol to minors on the night of May 4 and illegally furnishing liquor or brewed beverages.
Cody A. Brink-Douglas, 19, and Zane M. McMillen, 19, both of North Buffalo, and Sean J. Titus, 20, of Butler died when Titus reportedly became disoriented as his 1997 Mazda pickup climbed a steep hill and overturned in a muddy overflow pond just after midnight on May 5, according to state police.
Police said the three men were heading to a party near the pond in South Mahoning.
“During this investigation, it was determined that these three individuals had consumed alcoholic beverages at the Final Score Saloon,” Trooper Jason C. Morgan said in an affidavit.
Pompelia, who has owned the bar since 2006, denied that allegation.
“All I can say at this point is the charges are false. Those men were not drinking in the bar,” he said Monday. “The bar was not responsible at all for the drowning deaths of those boys, and everyone in town and around here knows it.”
Good could not be reached for comment.
Morgan filed the charges Monday before Clymer District Judge George Thachik.
In an affidavit of probable cause, Morgan said liquor enforcement officers went to the Final Score on May 8 and requested information on its business May 4-5.
“Pompelia showed the officers footage of Titus, Douglas and McMillen inside the bar,” the affidavit says. There appeared to be gaps in the footage, officers noted.
A few days later, Pompelia turned over a compact disc purportedly with that footage, but “it contained only 13-second segments,” and none of the footage originally shown to police, the affidavit says.
Pompelia “related that he believed the images were gone,” it says.
When Pompelia was asked to turn over that evening's receipts, he provided six sales receipts, police said. One indicated Titus used an ATM card to purchase $12 worth of food and an unspecified beverage and to leave a $13 tip.
Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty said the alleged “cover-up” made the case difficult.
“My understanding is at one point in time officers actually were able to view tapes. Then when they were seized and they attempted to extract the footage, the images had been removed. And it wasn't a system where the system overwrote itself,” Dougherty said.
Good told police the three men came to the bar about 11:30 p.m., but she refused to serve them because Titus incorrectly filled out a declaration of age card, the affidavit says.
She denied receiving a large tip for leaving alcoholic beverages off the bill.
Good “related that Titus tipped her good because he liked her,” Morgan wrote.
Friends told police the three men left the party around 10:25 p.m. on May 4 because they “were going to the Final Score to get beer,” the affidavit says
Kaleb Baum reported that he had multiple text conversations with Douglas.
“At about 11:43 p.m. (May 4), Douglas related to Baum that he had become wasted and requested a ride from the bar,” but Baum could not do so, the affidavit says. “Between 12:20 and 12:30 a.m., Baum observed the (pickup) drive up the access road, continue straight and enter the pond, subsequently rolling over and trapping the occupants until their death.”
Lilly Gould's vehicle broke down in the Final Score parking lot late on May 4, the affidavit notes.
Gould said the three men came out of the bar, and they were “stumbling as they walked over to assist her,” it says. “Gould reported she smelled alcoholic beverages. ... Each had Coors Light beads hanging from their necks.”
Patrons reported seeing the three men with plastic cups of beer and one saw them “taking shots (of alcohol) with a group” in the back of the bar, the affidavit says.
Attempts to reach family members of Titus and Douglas were unsuccessful. A member of the McMillens, contacted at their home in Kittanning, said the family would have no comment.
Titus had a blood-alcohol level of .106 percent. Douglas' blood-alcohol content level was .063 percent, and McMillen had a reading of .099 percent, police said. Under state law, drivers under age 21 are considered to be intoxicated at .02 percent.
Plumville firefighters estimated the men were pinned inside the cab of the truck for at least 20 minutes as friends tried to free them from the submerged vehicle.
The three were pronounced dead shortly before 2 a.m. on May 5.
According to LCE records, the Final Score was cited in 2010 for furnishing a 19-year-old with alcohol and paid a $1,250 fine.
Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or firstname.lastname@example.org.