The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Latest News

August 27, 2013

Who was driving? Court proceedings in deadly crash underway

EBENSBURG — Jurors stood next to the damaged remains of a pickup in which an East Taylor teen was traveling the night of the crash that took his life.

The debate that began in court Monday was about who was behind the wheel of that vehicle.

Brian Roles Sr.’s first day of trial in Cambria County court opened with attorneys on both sides of the case painting a different picture of the 2012 crash on Route 271 that claimed his 16-year-old son.

While prosecutors outlined a case in which Roles was speeding along the highway high on a mix of alcohol and pills, the East Taylor man’s defense attorneys said the teen was behind the wheel when the crash occurred, not their client.

“Evidence will show Mr. Roles was impaired that night ... his vehicle was traveling 56 mph on that road,” Assistant District Attorney Eric Hochfeld said.

“This was a terrible accident,” Defense Attorney Nicholas Banda countered. “But it was Brian (Roles) Jr. who was the driver of that truck.”

A jury of six men and six women are hearing the case before President Judge Timothy Creany.

Roles, 38, faces vehicular homicide while driving drunk and related charges in the crash.

Investigators say it occurred after the vehicle veered off the road during a northbound turn, causing it to hit an embankment, strike a utility pole and then roll over.

The younger Roles, a Conemaugh Valley student, was pronounced dead at the scene after being ejected from the pickup truck, police have said.

Roles Sr. had a suspended license at the time of the crash stemming from a previous DUI accident, and prosecutors called on analysts from a Philadelphia lab to testify that the East Taylor man’s blood had traces of anxiety medication and oxycodone, an opiate painkiller, in his system that night.

Hochfeld also called on NMS Labs’ forensic toxicologist Edward Barbieri, who told the court the man’s blood alcohol content was 0.17 percent – more than twice the state’s legal limit – when a blood test was taken approximately a half-hour after the crash. Added to the anxiety medication and a beyond-therapeutic amount of painkiller and “it makes it that much worse,” he added.

Banda and Public Defender Ryan Gleason didn’t challenge the test results.

But they pointed out that Barbieri had no knowledge of whether their client was behind the wheel of the vehicle that night or other details in the case.

Barbieri agreed.

Attorneys from both sides indicated they’ll present expert testimony related to the crash itself to make their case on who was driving that night.

Hochfeld indicated prosecutors will call on a crash scene reconstruction expert who will testify that the teen was thrown from the passenger seat when the impact occurred.

The trial’s first day wrapped with a short trip to the Cambria County Fairgrounds, where Roles’ white Chevy pickup was parked.

The vehicle sat in a nearly empty garage, still muddied from the wreck.

One tire was flat. Its hood remained bent and crumpled. A web of broken glass formed the front windshield.

Damage was most evident to the driver’s side of the truck, where the cab roof was noticeably dented.

Creany told jurors to get a close look at the truck, before reminding them they will return this morning for a second day of testimony.

The trial itself could last into Friday, he indicated.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/TDDavidHurst.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
  • Screen shot 2014-04-18 at 4.44.15 PM.png Paint, doodle and sketch: 3 apps for art lovers

    In the absence of a palette of watercolors and a sketchpad, these three apps can fill in as your art supplies of choice.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Do White Castle prices tell us anything about the minimum wage?

    The paper looked at how many delicious steamed sliders the minimum wage has been able to purchase over time. The point is that as it notes, in 1981, the $3.35 minimum could buy a whole dozen. Today, at $7.25, it could purchase just 10.

    April 24, 2014

  • Cats outsmart the researchers

    I knew a lot had been written about dogs, and I assumed there must be at least a handful of studies on cats. But after weeks of scouring the scientific world for someone - anyone - who studied how cats think, all I was left with was this statement, laughed over the phone to me by one of the world's top animal cognition experts, a Hungarian scientist named Ádám Miklósi.

    April 24, 2014

  • GarageA25.JPG Garage collapses in Oakland following Weds. night accident

    No one was hurt when a garage collapsed Thursday afternoon in the Oakland section of Stonycreek Township.

    April 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • Do your genes make you procrastinate?

    Procrastinators, in my experience, like nothing better than explaining away their procrastination: General busyness, fear of failure, and simple laziness are just a handful of the excuses and theories often tossed around. Now researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have added another option to the list: genetics.

    April 24, 2014

  • The top 12 government programs ever

    Which federal programs and policies succeed in being cost-effective and targeting those who need them most? These two tests are obvious: After all, why would we spend taxpayers' money on a program that isn't worth what it costs or helps those who do not need help?

    April 24, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 4.42.47 PM.png VIDEO | Leopard attacks crowd in India

    A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • In cuffs... 'Warlock' in West Virginia accused of sexual assault

    Police in West Virginia say a man claiming to be a “warlock” used promises of magical spells to lure children into committing sexual acts with him.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • VIDEO: Moose charges snowmobile, flees after warning shot

    While snowmobiling in New England, Bob and Janis Powell of Maine were charged by a moose and caught the entire attack on camera.

    April 24, 2014

  • 10 things to know for today

    Your look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:

    April 24, 2014

Poll

Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads