Saltsburg man convicted of vehicular homicide
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.
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments â either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.