Man sentenced in train-car deaths

March 06, 1997


Staff Writer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- A Chambersburg man who was convicted in the deaths of his mother and stepfather when their car was struck by a train in March 1995 was sentenced Wednesday to up to 10 years in prison on two counts of homicide by vehicle.

William E. Foster Sr., 39, of 1004 Fox Meadow Drive, told Judge William Kaye that he shouldn't be given a long sentence because it will cost the state more than $150,000 a year for his jail and medical costs.

Foster is serving a 91/2-year sentence on an unrelated offense. He has enough prior offenses to be labeled a career criminal, Judge William Kaye said.


"You're an intelligent man. It's too bad you've chosen the life you've chosen," Kaye told Foster. "You've spent most of the last 10 years in prison." The judge read a long list of charges and convictions against Foster from theft to drug charges to assault, many of which were committed while he was on parole.

"You've demonstrated that you are not going to live by society's rules and laws," the judge said.

The victims in the case, Cora Lee Wheeler, 63, of 918 Byers Ave., Chambersburg, and her husband, Jerry Wheeler, 42, of the same address, were killed when Foster ignored warning lights and gates and drove onto railroad tracks into the path of an oncoming train, according to court records.

Foster denied that he was the driver of the car.

Foster, who escaped serious injury, was found walking about a quarter of a mile from the wreck, according to police. The warning devices were working properly at the Orchard Drive crossing at the time of the accident, police said.

Although there was no proof that Foster was intoxicated, traces of cocaine were found in his blood and in Wheeler's blood after the crash, the judge said Wednesday.

The judge said the crash was an accident. "You didn't mean to kill these people," he said.

Foster's grandmother, Clarissa Grant, spoke in his defense, saying he has suffered enough.

Foster sat in a wheelchair in court Wednesday. He told the judge the crash left him paralyzed on his right side.

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