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Punxsutawney driver gets jail sentence for fatal crash

| Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 12:46 a.m.

A 21-year-old Punxsutawney man charged in 2011 in a one-car crash that killed three teens has been sentenced to 12 to 36 months in Armstrong County Jail on three felony counts of vehicular homicide.

Blair Ernest Smith in March pleaded guilty to the charges and to the misdemeanor driving under the influence of alcohol. He was sentenced by President Judge Kenneth Valasek at the Armstrong County Courthouse on Friday.

Court records show that Smith was 19 and the driver at the time of the crash that killed passengers Sean McConnaughey, 18, Dylan Behrendt and Joel Riggleman, both 19 of Punxsutawney. The crash happened when Smith lost control of his car while speeding on Route 839 in Wayne.

Although the maximum penalty Smith faced for the felony charges was 21 years, sentence guidelines ranged from a minimum of three months to a minimum of 12 months for each count, District Attorney Scott Andreassi wrote in an email on Tuesday.

The court sentenced Smith after being presented with written statements and testimony from victims' families, Andreassi said.

“Their positions ranged from leniency and no jail time, to as much jail time as possible,” he said.

In other sentencing by Valasek:

• Lee Kaniel Chavez, 34, of Ford City was sentenced to 15 to 30 months in state prison on charges of possession of a controlled substance and possession with intent to deliver. He was ordered to pay $350 in fines and costs, $120 in restitution and must complete a drug and alcohol evaluation. He was credited with 39 days served.

• Robert Allen Beskid, 30, housed at the jail, was sentenced to nine to 24 months on a robbery charge. He was ordered to pay $500 in fines and costs, must complete a drug and alcohol evaluation and perform 15 hours of community service. He was credited with 193 days served.

The following were sentenced on Thursday by Judge James Panchik:

• Dewayne Earl Crawford, 49, of 965 Glade Run Road, Kittanning was sentenced to one to five years, with 60 days to be served in jail and at least 305 days of home confinement, on a charge of driving under the influence. He was ordered to pay $2,034 in fines and costs, must complete a highway safety course, a drug and alcohol evaluation, a victim impact program, perform 30 hours of community service and be monitored by an alcohol-detecting anklet for 90 days. He was credited with 122 days served.

• Dan Charles Fletcher, 35, of 145 Oak Ave., Kittanning was sentenced to 90 days to five years, with 15 days to be served in jail and at least 75 of home confinement, on a charge of driving under the influence. He was ordered to pay $2,034 in fines and costs, must complete a highway safety course, a drug and alcohol evaluation, a victim impact program and perform 30 hours of community service.

• Edward Charles Brightmeyer Jr., 54, of 332 Ferndale St., Ford City was sentenced to 19 days to 18 months on a charge of theft by deception. He was ordered to pay $400 in fines and costs. He was credited with 19 days served.

• Dylan Andrew Smith, 22, of 209 Mechanic St., P.O. Box 206, Dayton was sentenced to 18 months' probation on a charge of theft from a motor vehicle. He was ordered to pay $200 in fines and costs and must complete the Back on Track cognitive behavior program.

• Phillip Ernest Elsesser, 29, housed in the Armstrong County Jail, was sentenced to six months' probation on a charge of furnishing drug free urine. He was ordered to pay $100 in fines and costs.

• Tyler Anthony Dotts, 21, housed in the Jefferson County Jail, was sentenced to two years probation to be served consecutively with the sentence imposed in Jefferson County, on a charge of theft from a motor vehicle. He was ordered to pay $300 in fines and costs and must perform 30 hours of community service.

• Gary Lee McKean Jr., 29, of 187 S. main St., Elderton was sentenced to six months to two years on a charge of making terroristic threats. He was ordered to pay $200 in fines and costs and must complete a cognitive behavior program. He was credited with 103 days served.

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