The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

July 7, 2014

Plea leads to chaotic courtroom

— SUNBURY — In a chaotic courtroom scene, Northumberland County Judge Charles Saylor refused a plea agreement and sentenced Aaron W. Rothermel to a state prison term of nine months to five years for driving while under the influence of marijuana in a crash that killed an 18-year old Trevorton man in 2013.

During her first day on the job, District Attorney Ann Targonski was forced to make an appearance in the courtroom after the family of Jared Wood, a 2012 graduate of Line Mountain High School, loudly questioned the plea agreement approved by her office.

“We knew nothing about the sentencing,” said David Wood, Jared Wood’s father, after learning that Rothermel, 22, of Trevorton, was set to receive a 9- to 23-month county prison sentence after pleading guilty to homicide by vehicle.

“My emotions may have got the best of me, but we had no communication about what this sentence would be and no one ever told us about this agreement.”

During the discussions, Saylor took a recess to review the materials.

David Wood was visibly upset and told Targonski that he was not satisfied that a plea agreement was reached without the consent of the family.

Targonski asked what sentence would be sufficient, and Wood responded, “the same amount of years my son was alive.”

Saylor returned from the recess and found Targonski handling the case.

Targonski addressed Saylor and informed him of David Wood’s wishes, but said the grieving father knew that sentence was not possible.

Invited to address the court, David Wood said: “I came to speak directly to Aaron Rothermel. No decision made here today will make a difference. You (Rothermel) are just a murderer in a different form.”

“I am so so, so sorry,” a tearful Rothermel said while addressing the court. “I never intended for this to happen.”

David Wood left the courtroom during Rothermel’s remarks.

Northumberland County Chief Public Defender Ed Greco, who represented Rothermel, told Saylor that after reviewing an evaluation of his client he believed Rothermel was taking responsibility for the crash and was very remorseful for his actions.

Saylor didn’t buy it.

The January 2013 fatal accident claimed Jared Wood’s life and Rothermel was charged a year later.

Police said Rothermel had marijuana in his system on Jan. 19, 2013, the day Jared Wood was killed. He was traveling about 50-miles-per-hour when his 1998 Nissan Sentra slammed into a tree on Schwaben Creek Rd., in Upper Mahanoy Township, police said.

Rothermel and another passenger, a 17-year-old Trevorton male who was not identified by police, escaped injury.

None of the occupants was wearing a seat belt, police said.

“You took everything away from me with your reckless actions,” Jared Wood’s mother, Heidi Whitley, said Monday as she addressed Rothermel in court. “I no longer have happiness. I have nothing left.”

E-mail comments to fscarcella@dailyitem.com.

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