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Connellsville man charged in 2011 vehicular homicide

| Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Almost two years after Deborah Prah of Acme buried her son David Prah Jr., a Connellsville man has been charged with vehicular homicide in the death of the 22-year-old college student.

State police at Uniontown filed the criminal charge on Friday against Johnathan Schroyer, 26, who is accused of three motor vehicle violations: running a red light, careless driving and reckless driving.

Prah died on Nov. 29, 2011, in Highlands Hospital in Connellsville after a three-vehicle accident on Route 119 in Connellsville Township.

State police said a 2003 Chevrolet Silverado pickup driven by Schroyer struck Prah's 1993 Honda Civic when Schroyer ignored a red light. Schroyer's truck then struck a 1998 Ford Ranger pickup driven by Leslie Etling, 77, of Connellsville, police said.

The wreck occurred at noon as Schroyer was traveling south in the right lane of Route 119 and Prah was pulling onto the highway from West Blake Avenue, police said. Etling was stopped in the northbound left turning lane of Route 119.

Etling told police that Prah had a green light, according to court documents.

As Deborah and David Prah waited to see if Fayette County District Attorney Jack Heneks Jr. would direct police to file criminal charges, they filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Schroyer.

Their attorney, David J. Watson of Balzarini & Watson in Pittsburgh, said he has been frustrated in attempts to depose Schroyer about the accident because he has invoked his Fifth Amendment right and has declined to testify in the civil case.

“The potential of criminal charges being filed in the future was the basis for his assertion of his Fifth Amendment right,” Watson wrote in a court motion.

In an earlier response, Union-town attorney William Radcliffe said Schroyer and his personal attorney, Ronald Kristobak, were “adamant” that Schroyer could not answer questions about the accident.

Watson said he wanted to question Schroyer on issues such as where he was coming from and heading to at the time of the accident, if he had ingested any drugs or alcohol in the 24 hours beforehand, or if he experienced any health issues or mechanical problems before the crash.

Most of those answers were obtained from Schroyer's father and state police investigators, Watson said.

Kristobak did not return telephone messages seeking comment.

Watson's motion noted that seven letters had been sent to Heneks requesting that a decision be made on whether criminal charges would be brought against Schroyer. No response was received, according to Watson.

Schroyer's liability insurance is capped at $50,000, the motion said. “My investigation centered on whether any other party might share in this,” Watson said.

“No amount of money will replace my son. I don't want to hurt this boy (Schroyer), either. But there has to be some kind of recourse,” Deborah Prah said earlier this week, before criminal charges were filed.

Staff writer Mark Hofmann contributed to this report. Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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