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Police photos of fatal Route 31 crash resurface

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Friday, April 15, 2011
 

Westmoreland County prosecutors will again be permitted to use crime-scene photographs taken of a fatal head-on crash more than three years ago in East Huntingdon.

Last month, all evidence and reports that relied on those photographs were barred from evidence in the upcoming vehicular homicide trial of Lisa M. Brooks, 40, of Hempfield.

Brooks is charged with being drunk when on Jan. 8, 2008, her sport utility vehicle crossed into oncoming traffic and hit a car being driven by 30-year-old John David Reho Jr. of Smithton. Reho died from injuries sustained in the crash.

Police responded to the crash scene on Route 31 and took photographs of the road and the vehicles involved. Those images were subsequently lost.

Now, they have been found.

"They found them misfiled in the (state police) barracks, and we presented them to defense counsel," said Assistant District Attorney Wayne Gongaware.

As a result, Westmoreland County Judge Debra A. Pezze vacated her order and will permit the prosecution to use all of its evidence at Brooks' trial.

Defense attorney Tim McCormick could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Brooks was charged 18 months after the crash. Police said that her blood-alcohol content at the time of the crash was 0.23 percent, which is nearly three times the 0.08 percent threshold at which a motorist in Pennsylvania is considered to be intoxicated.

If convicted of the most serious charge against her, Brooks will face a mandatory sentence of three to six years in prison.

The trial is expected to be scheduled for later this year.

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