The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

January 23, 2013

Sunbury teen admits causing crash near SUN Tech

LEWISBURG — A 17-year-old Sunbury resident has admitted causing the Sept. 14 crash on Route 304 that killed passenger Travis Tillett and injured two others.

Justin D. Miller admitted in Union County Court on Tuesday that he was to blame for losing control of his 2004 Ford Explorer trying to pass another motorist while traveling at least 89 mph in a 55 mph, no-passing zone on his way to Sun Area Technical Institute in New Berlin with Tillett and two other Shikellamy High School classmates, Robert Coleman and Samuel Mull.

Tillett, 16, of Northumberland, was thrown from the vehicle as it overturned and died the next day.

Coleman and Mull, 19, both suffered serious injuries.

Miller, who turned 17 the day after the accident, was treated for his injuries and released.

As his parents sat in the courtroom, Miller admitted during a finding of the facts hearing before Union-Snyder President Judge Michael H. Sholley that he had acted recklessly behind the wheel.

Although Miller is a minor, his name is being made public because he has pleaded guilty to felony charges of homicide by vehicle and two counts of aggravated assault by vehicle, as well as summary counts of speeding and overtaking a vehicle.

Two other charges of reckless driving and driving with a junior license with more than one passenger under age 18 who is not an immediate family member were withdrawn.

The case is being transferred to juvenile court in Northumberland County, where Miller resides. A Northumberland County judge will determine whether Miller is a delinquent requiring treatment, supervision or rehabilitation.

Any agreement made in Union County is not binding in Northumberland County, Sholley informed Miller and his parents.

Depending on the outcome, Miller could face fines, probation, community service or be committed to a treatment or rehabilitation center.

Northumberland County Juvenile Probation Director William Rossnock said for the past five or so years, criminal cases involving juveniles who commit offenses in another county are transferred for adjudication and disposition to their home county court.

This allows court officials who most likely are aware of their records and progress to evaluate and supervise them, Rossnock said.

It also lessens the burden on Northumberland County,which is home to Northwestern Academy in Coal Township.

In the event a minor residing there commits an offense, the case would be transferred to the minor’s home county.

In an unrelated fatal crash, state police charged Kyle Koontz, 18, of Shamokin, last week with two counts of homicide by vehicle for causing the June 14 alcohol-related accident in Zerbe Township, Northumberland County, that killed David W. Dorsett, 19, of Coal Township, one of three passengers in his vehicle.

A preliminary hearing scheduled for Tuesday before District Judge John Gembic III in Shamokin has been postponed until March.

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