Pa. man gets year in jail in crash that killed woman

March 14, 2001

Pa. man gets year in jail in crash that killed woman

By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

A Chambersburg man who's never had a driver's license was sentenced to a year in Franklin County Prison for causing a head-on collision in which a Greencastle, Pa., woman died in April.

Thomas H. Brooks, 35, of 522 S. Main St., was sentenced to one year in jail and six years of probation for causing an accident involving death. Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge John Walker suspended a state prison sentence, but warned Brooks that if he's caught driving again without a license he will serve time in the State Correctional Institution.

"Mr. Brooks is going to jail. He needs to go to jail or he'll continue driving," Walker said. "Mr. Brooks thumbed his nose at society and said he was going to drive without a license."

The April 5, 2000, accident killed Annabelle G. Young, 60, who was driving north on U.S. 11 near State Line, Pa., taking her twin grandsons to school.


Brooks was driving his girlfriend's Chevrolet Blazer south on U.S. 11 and attempted to make a left turn in front of Young's 1988 Oldsmobile Delta. He has said he did not see her car.

Young died at the scene of the 7:21 a.m. accident. Her grandsons and Brooks were treated for minor injuries.

Young's three sons attended the sentencing, and asked Walker why Brooks does not face stiffer charges and how he was able to get behind the wheel if he did not have a license.

"I sympathize with you. I lost a cousin on the highway. He took someone very dear to you," Walker said.

But he said Brooks was not driving at speeds that would have allowed for involuntary manslaughter charges and that there are not enough police to keep people from driving without a license.

"She is really missed. Whatever he gets won't be enough," said Michael Young. "It doesn't matter what you do, she won't come back."

Brooks' attorney, Chris Sheffield, said his client's IQ of 58 renders him barely functional.

Brooks has said he and his girlfriend argued over his unwillingness to drive before the accident, but she finally coerced him into taking her car to get a soda for her.

Sheffield said psychiatrists who have examined Brooks recommend he not be placed in prison, but in a structured program where he can receive medical help.

"He needs treatment, drug therapy. I don't think it does any good having Mr. Brooks sitting in jail," Sheffield said.

Walker disagreed. "Unfortunately it's not a psychiatrist up here sentencing him. He drove. He knew he shouldn't, and he killed someone," he said.

He said he took into account that Brooks was picked up twice in 1999 for driving without a license and pleaded guilty both times.

Brooks sobbed as he addressed the court and the Young family.

"I am very sorry. I realize what I did was wrong. I didn't want to drive no car. I'm really sorry," he said. "In my sleep, I hear crashes. I hope God has mercy on me and my soul. I am deeply sorry."

Walker ordered Brooks to pay about $18,000 in restitution to Young's estate, family and insurance company.

"I agree SCI would not be to your benefit, but a psychiatrist doesn't have to sit in the position that if you drive again they are responsible," Walker said. "Your best bet when you get out is to buy a good pair of sneakers. You should get a bicycle."

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