Posted on Nov 25, 2014
The Carlisle Sentinel is reporting that a felony homicide by vehicle charge was dismissed after a Shippensburg man last week pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the drunk driving death of a bicyclist.
Mark E. Nealy, 43, pleaded guilty last Thursday to misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter and DUI after the death of Jeffrey I. Coons, 48, of Chambersburg, on Airport Road, Southampton Township, at 11:02 p.m. May 3, 2013.
Nealy was initially charged last Dec. 16 after a months-long investigation into the incident, after completion of chemical testing. The most serious charge of felony homicide by vehicle was dismissed at the time of the plea.
Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed said there was a “legal causation issue” with the homicide by vehicle charge, which led to the plea.
“The recklessness required for involuntary (manslaughter) fits the distracted driving involved in this case,” he said in an email. “Homicide by vehicle requires that the vehicle code violation be the cause of the death. In this case, there was a combination of inattentive driving, alcohol and a victim on a bicycle at night. The evidence regarding the defendants driving supported proof of recklessness but not the extreme indifference to the value of human life required for the homicide by vehicle.”
Nealy was also charged with misdemeanor DUI, DUI high rate, involuntary manslaughter, summary following too closely, careless driving and reckless driving. A DUI charge and the summary traffic charges were dismissed Thursday.
State Police at Carlisle said Coons was riding his bicycle south when he was struck from behind by a Toyota Sequoia driven by Nealy.
Police said Coons was thrown over the hood of the vehicle and suffered severe injuries. He was flown to Penn State Hershey Medical Center, where he died May 4.
Police said Nealy was found to be under the influence of alcohol and was taken into custody and taken for a blood alcohol test.
Court documents state Nealy told officers he had been drinking at the University Grille and also admitted to sending text messages while stopped at a traffic light shortly before the incident.
Nealy is awaiting county Intermediate Punishment (IP) sentencing on Jan. 20, according to court records.
Freed said county IP generally involves both jail time and treatment, but did not elaborate on the plea agreement.