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Dismissal of charges sought in fatal Uniontown crash

| Thursday, March 29, 2012

A charge of homicide by vehicle against a Uniontown man, accused of speeding when he struck a Jeep, ejecting and killing a passenger, should be dismissed because the other driver turned in front of him, a defense attorney contends.

Michael P. Williams Jr., 31, is charged with homicide by vehicle and speeding in the March 2009 death of Leslie Dawn Martray.

Martray, 46, died of blunt-force injuries at the scene of the early morning accident on Route 119 near the former Laurel Mall.

A passenger in a Jeep Cherokee driven by her daughter Nicole Leapline, Martray was ejected when Williams' northbound Buick Century hit the SUV as it turned left, police said.

Williams appeared in court on Wednesday before Judge Steve Leskinen on a motion by his Uniontown attorney, Jeff Proden, to have the charges dismissed. Proden successfully had charges dismissed of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI and DUI.

Leapline testified at an earlier hearing that she waited for her traffic signal to turn green before turning left into the former mall's parking lot. Because other witnesses gave conflicting testimony over whether the lights were functioning or flashing yellow, Assistant District Attorney Michelle Kelley said police can't prove that claim.

Williams is not charged with running a red light, Leskinen said, leaving the court to assume he had a green light. As a result, Proden argued, the sole traffic violation of speeding does not show the degree of negligence required to support the homicide charge.

Williams was traveling, at a minimum, between 55 and 57 mph at the time of the crash, said Sgt. Joseph D'Andrea, who prepared an accident reconstruction report. The speed limit in the area of the crash is 45 mph.

Had Williams not been speeding, D'Andrea testified, the accident might not have occurred. He said speed was a major contributing factor.

Another state trooper, Christopher Hoover, testified that when he prepared the initial accident report, he identified Leapline as at fault because she made an improper turn. Charges against Williams were filed after D'Andrea performed his accident reconstruction.

Leskinen did not immediately rule on the request to have the charges dismissed. Williams is free on $10,000 unsecured bond.

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