UPDATE: This story has been updated from a previously published version.
SUNBURY — A Middleburg man who admitted responsibility in the 2019 death of Brian Cox asked for forgiveness from the family and said he was haunted by his actions on April 29.
Jay Boyer Jr., 36, whose drunken punch caused Brian Cox to fall and suffer a fatal skull fracture last April, was sentenced on Monday to 4 1/2 to 9 years in state prison by Northumberland County Judge Hugh Jones. Jessica Cox, the sister-in-law of Brian Cox, addressed Boyer prior to sentencing.
"This could have been avoided," she said. "Jay, I forgive you in my heart for taking the life of my brother-in-law, but I can't forget what you did and how you did it."
Boyer, who appeared via videoconference, pleaded guilty in October to three misdemeanor charges of involuntary manslaughter, simple assault and recklessly endangerment and three summary charges of harassment, public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. A felony count of aggravated assault was dropped as part of the plea deal.
Boyer admitted that he was drunk when he punched Brian Cox with a closed fist in the early morning hours of April 29 along South Third Street in Sunbury and knocked him down. According to court documents, Boyer told police he became upset because Cox was spitting while the two were speaking.
Cox died May 9 as a result of blunt force trauma to the head caused by the fall, according to an autopsy report. Police said the autopsy showed Cox suffered a fracture to the rear of his skull.
Jones chastised Boyer for not learning his lesson after spending 15 years in prison on charges related to a robbery involving aggravated assault in Northumberland County.
"This was needless, absolutely needless," said Jones.
Boyer said he is "haunted" by the events and wished he could take Cox's place. He said he is not a monster.
"I cannot change what happened that night," he said. "I wish I could. I did not intend to take his life."
Jessica Boyer, the sister of Jay Boyer, said her brother was always a positive influence on her and repeated that Boyer is not a monster.
"We're not bad people," she said. "We want to do whatever we can to be there for the family and help the family."
Jessica Cox said the family has suffered emotionally since losing Cox. She said she didn't want to degrade the Boyer family because they're going through the same things.
She challenged Jay Boyer to get the help he needs while imprisoned because "obviously probation and parole didn't help you when you were out," she said.
"I forgive you," she said again at the end of her statements, "and I hope the Lord does, too."
In addition to state prison time with credit for 67 days, Jones also sentenced Boyer to pay $1,100 in total fines, plus court costs and fees, and ordered him to pay for $55,760.52 in restitution toward medical assistance costs.
The Commonwealth was represented by Assistant District Attorney Robyn Zenzinger. Chief Public Defender Edward Greco represented Boyer. Attorney Matthew J. Perry, of Scranton, represented the Cox family.