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June 25, 2013

Teen facing charges in two Richland deaths

JOHNSTOWN — A Nanty Glo man voluntarily turned himself in to authorities on Monday to face charges stemming from a fatal automobile accident that occurred on Frankstown Road in June 2012.

Austin Molinich, 19, was arraigned on eight counts, including homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, texting while driving and driving under the influence. Charges were filed after a yearlong investigation involving a detailed in-house collision reconstruction and cellphone analysis.

“There was a lot of evidence that had to be interpreted and gone over by our accident reconstructionist to complete his report,” said Richland Township police Chief Mike Burgan.

Molinich was released on $100,000 unsecured bond by District Judge Rick Varner after surrendering to the Richland police.

“There was no issue with the bond,” said Thomas Keirn, a detective with the department.

Molinich, a 2012 graduate of Blacklick Valley Jr.-Sr. High School, is accused of causing the deaths of Donald Evans Sr., 71, of Conemaugh Township, Cambria County, and his granddaughter, 19-year-old Cassandra Singer of Northumberland County.

Molinich was operating a 2005 Chevrolet Silverado pickup that allegedly crossed the double yellow lines and struck a 1982 Volkswagen pickup, driven by Evans.

The suspect’s cellphone log showed he made a call to 911 at 8:09 p.m. on June 11, 2012, two minutes after he received a text message.

A voluntary screening allegedly revealed he had a 0.02 percent blood alcohol level, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

He allegedly was driving 54 mph – in an area posted at 45 – five seconds before impact. His vehicle reportedly drifted 9 feet into the opposite lane. Per the affidavit, he hit his brakes and attempted to steer back onto his own side of the road, which caused Evans to steer hard to the left in an attempt to avoid the oncoming vehicle.

Molinich originally claimed a bird struck his windshield, thus causing him to become distracted.

“Based upon the events determined by the investigation, we were able to make the determination that charges should be instated,” said Heath Long, Cambria County assistant district attorney.

A preliminary hearing has been set for July 2.

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