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Man pleads no contest to alcohol-related deaths

November 15, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Greencastle, Pa., man faces a state prison sentence after pleading no contest Monday to homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence in the deaths of a father and son last year.

Thomas Arthur Potter, 59, of 2990 Buchanan Trail West, who was scheduled for a two-day jury trial Wednesday and Thursday, entered the plea before Franklin County President Judge John R. Walker.

Each count carries a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in state prison, according to Pennsylvania state law.

Mark Hykes, 34, of 11112 Welsh Run Road, Greencastle, and his 4-year-old son, Daniel, were killed April 18, 1998, in a three-vehicle accident at the intersection of Pa. 16 and Hill Road in Antrim Township, according to Pennsylvania State Police.

They were in a Ford Escort station wagon waiting to turn left onto Hill Road when a westbound van driven by Potter struck them from behind, according to police records. The impact spun the car around, forcing it into the eastbound lane, where it was struck by an eastbound Nissan Pathfinder, records state.

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McCracken said Potter was trying to pass the Hykes' car on the right when it caught the car's rear bumper.

Potter had a blood-alcohol level of 0.23 percent, more than twice the limit for legal intoxication in Pennsylvania, according to court records.

"We agreed not to seek more than three years on each one in order to get the plea," Assistant District Attorney Jill McCracken said. Her office could have sought a minimum of 3 1/2 years on each count, she said.

McCracken said Jennifer Hykes, the wife of Mark and mother of Daniel, agreed to the plea "as long as she could come in at sentencing and argue for consecutive sentences." That would mean at least six years in prison for Potter, with a maximum sentence of 14 years.

"We dropped a bunch of other charges that would have merged at sentencing, so we didn't give up anything on charges," McCracken said.

Those other charges included two counts of homicide by vehicle, two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of driving under the influence.

McCracken said a no contest plea means "the defendant chooses not to contest the evidence." The accused does not have to make any statement on the record as to his guilt or innocence.

Potter is scheduled for sentencing Thursday, Jan. 20, before Walker.

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