17-year-old charged in homicide by vehicle has trial

September 29, 2008

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A teenager charged with homicide by vehicle in the death last year of a Waynesboro, Pa., man was on trial Friday.

The boy, now 17, also is charged with involuntary manslaughter and recklessly endangering another person in the Sept. 28, 2007, crash that killed Donald Bernhisel Jr., 37, of 43 N. Phillips Ave., Assistant District Attorney Bret Beynon said.

Bernhisel was driving near the intersection of Marsh and Salem Church roads at about 10:40 p.m. when a 1998 Ford Explorer crossed the center line and collided with his GMC Sierra pickup truck, Washington Township police said. Bernhisel was trapped in the wreckage of the truck, which burst into flames, police said.

Bernhisel burned to death, according to an autopsy report.

The driver of the Explorer, whom police did not identify because he is a minor, and a passenger were treated for minor injuries at Waynesboro Hospital, police said.


"The Commonwealth presented evidence that his conduct was reckless," Beynon said of the boy.

The defense challenged the evidence given by an accident reconstructionist for the prosecution, defense attorney Eric Weisbrod said.

"We challenged the assumption of where the initial impact of the vehicles took place," Weisbrod said. "At no point in time did his vehicle ever cross the center line."

The boy and the two passengers in the Explorer that night all testified, he said.

Judge Carol Van Horn will make a decision in the case within about a week, Beynon said. If the boy is adjudicated delinquent, he could be placed in detention, she said.

The juvenile justice system would have jurisdiction over the case until the boy turns 21, Beynon said.

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