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Saltsburg man convicted of vehicular homicide

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Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

A Saltsburg man faces up to 10 years in prison for killing his friend in a car crash last year.

Clifford F. Porterfield, 56, was convicted Friday of vehicular homicide and drunken driving in connection with the May 13, 2011 crash in Loyalhanna Township that killed 43-year-old Ronald Puzak, also of Saltsburg.

Westmoreland County Judge John Blahovec issued the verdict following a nonjury trial he convened on Nov. 13.

Blahovec found Porterfield guilty of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, homicide by vehicle and two separate counts of drunken driving. The judge acquitted Porterfield of one charge of reckless endangerment and two summary driving offenses.

Assistant District Attorney Allen Powanda said Porterfield faces a mandatory minimum sentence of three to six years in jail, but the judge could impose a longer sentence to account for the separate drunken driving offenses.

Porterfield lost control of his sport utility vehicle, which skidded across the road, scraped a guide rail and went airborne for about 20 feet before it hit a tree.

Puzak died from blunt-force trauma to his abdomen.

Trial testimony indicated that a breath test conducted about two hours after the crash found Porterfield's blood-alcohol content to be 0.151 percent, or nearly twice the limit at which a motorist is considered to be intoxicated in Pennsylvania.

A blood test four hours after the crash determined Porterfield's alcohol level was 0.118 percent.

Porterfield testified that Puzak caused the crash. Defense attorney Jim Crosby could not be reached.

Blahovec ordered Porterfield to report to the county probation department within two weeks, but he can remain free on bail until his sentencing hearing, which is expected to be held in about three months.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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