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Man sentenced to prison for role in fatal Pa. crash

April 15, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - An illegal alien who pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a fatal 2003 accident was sentenced Wednesday in Franklin County Court to 17 months to 10 years in prison.

Juan Eduardo Beltran-Gonzalez, 30, of 3763 Woodstock Road, was sentenced by Judge John R. Walker to serve from one to seven years in prison on a charge of accidents involving death or serious bodily injury and another five months to three years in prison for accidents involving death while not properly licensed, according to court records.

Beltran-Gonzalez was given 262 days credit for time already served since his arrest on Aug. 26, 2003, court records stated. Pennsylvania State Police said he turned himself in two days after the Aug. 24 accident that resulted in the death of Ronald Higgs, 55, of Spring Run, Pa.

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Higgs died at Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center the day after the accident in which his van was struck by a pickup truck driven by Beltran-Gonzalez on Cumberland Highway in Greene Township.

Police said Beltran-Gonzalez was driving a borrowed pickup, crossed the center line and struck the van, causing Higgs to be ejected when the van rolled over.

Beltran-Gonzalez drove the damaged pickup to a property not far from the accident scene, parked it and fled, police said. Troopers followed a trail of leaking oil to the pickup, which was owned by a Shippensburg, Pa., man, who said he loaned it to a man named Eduardo.

On Feb. 26, a hearing was held in Franklin County Court on a motion in which Assistant District Attorney Angela Krom asked Walker to preclude Beltran-Gonzalez from using a "defense of necessity" if his case went to trial.

At that hearing, Beltran-Gonzalez testified he left the scene for fear of being beaten or killed by white people. Walker ruled Beltran-Gonzalez "offered no evidence that he was in clear and imminent danger."

Beltran-Gonzalez pleaded guilty to the charges on March 4.

Through an interpreter, Beltran-Gonzalez turned to family members of Higgs and apologize, Krom said. Several letters from Higgs' relatives asking for justice in the case were read into the court record, Krom said.

Walker ordered Beltran-Gonzalez to pay a $2,500 fine, $5,235 in restitution to Higgs' widow, Kathy, and another $125 in restitution to state police.

This was the third time this year that a driver was ordered to serve time for leaving the scene of a fatal accident, according to court records.

  • On April 7, John Leo Marcoux, 34, of Chambersburg was sentenced to three months in the county jail, five months on an electronic monitor and four months under house arrest for failing to stop after he struck and killed 59-year-old Marvin Shlien of Greencastle, Pa., on Jan. 16, 2003. Marcoux was not charged with causing Shlien's death, but for failing to stop and render aid or information as required under Pennsylvania law.

  • Peter Matthew Shumway, 23, of Mont Alto, Pa., was sentenced Feb. 11 to four months in jail, four months on a monitor and four months of house arrest for leaving the scene of a Nov. 1, 2002, accident in Waynesboro, Pa. Qiquang Dong, 50, of Crosswell, Tenn., was killed in that crash, court records said.
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