Driver sentenced up to 40 years in prison for fatal Christmas Eve crash in East Huntingdon |

Driver sentenced up to 40 years in prison for fatal Christmas Eve crash in East Huntingdon

Rich Cholodofsky
Rich Cholodofsky | Tribune-Review
Matthew Ramsay (right) leaves the courthouse following testimony Thursday in his third-degree murder trial.
Matthew Ramsay

Jolene Cummins said Christmas was always a joyful day for her family.

That changed on Christmas Eve 2016, when her husband of 25 years was killed as he ran that afternoon with his dog near the family’s home in East Huntingdon.

Police say the man driving the car that hit Cummins was driven by a man under the influence of drugs.

Joseph Cummins, 49, died almost instantly from the impact of the crash, and the driver sped away from the scene without seeking help for the man he struck.

Jolene Cummins along with her three children and other family members, testified Monday in the sentencing hearing for her husband’s killer and asked that 31-year-old Matthew Ramsay be ordered to serve the maximum prison sentence allowed by law.

“Now my life feels empty and alone, and our lives have changed forever,” Jolene Cummins said. “We lost the joy of celebrating this holiday.”

Ramsay of New Stanton was convicted by a Westmoreland County jury in March of third-degree murder, vehicular homicide, driving while under the influence of drugs and leaving the scene of a crash.

Westmoreland County Common Pleas Judge Christopher Feliciani ordered Ramsay to serve a total sentence of 15 to 40 years in prison.

“This is one of the most selfish and cowardly acts I’ve witnessed as a judge,” Feliciani said.

Ramsay did not testify at his trial, where his defense lawyer, Jim Robinson, argued there was no proof that he had consumed drugs beyond a daily dose of methadone prescribed since early 2014 to help him battle a heroin addiction.

“I am remorseful, and I wish every day I can take it back,” Ramsay said Monday. “I am not a heartless monster. This was a terrible accident.”

Prosecutors contended that, in addition to methadone, the antidepressant Xanax and marijuana were in Ramsay’s blood that was tested 15 hours after the fatal crash. Those drugs rendered Ramsay incapable of safely operating his car on Ruffsdale-Alverton Road when he deliberately swerved his 1995 Saturn into the oncoming lane of traffic and hit Cummins from behind as he jogged with his dog on the side of the road and then fled the scene, according to Assistant District Attorney Pete Flanigan.

Prosecutors contended that after the crash, Ramsay attempted to hide his damaged car and went Christmas shopping.

“He showed an extreme disregard for human life,” Flanigan said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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