Man ad­mits role in fa­tal Route 422 drag race crash

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Carl Hessler Jr. chessler@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Mont­coCourtNews on Twit­ter

NOR­RIS­TOWN » Ap­pear­ing to wipe tears from his eyes at times, one of two men ac­cused of caus­ing a crash with mul­ti­ple fa­tal­i­ties dur­ing a high-speed street race on Route 422 in West Potts­grove ad­mit­ted to his role in the crime.

Evaughn-Sha An­to­nio Wal­ters, 21, of Wash­ing­ton, D.C., was soft-spo­ken as he pleaded guilty in Mont­gomery County Court on Thurs­day to two felony counts of homi­cide by ve­hi­cle in con­nec­tion with the 12:02 a.m. Feb. 4, 2017, crash on east­bound Route 422 in West Potts­grove that left two peo­ple, in­clud­ing a preg­nant wo­man, dead.

A per­son com­mits homi­cide by ve­hi­cle when they

reck­lessly or with gross neg­li­gence cause the death of an­other per­son while vi­o­lat­ing traf­fic laws. Pros­e­cu­tors al­leged Wal­ters’ vi­o­la­tions in­cluded rac­ing on high­ways, speed­ing and care­less and reck­less driv­ing.

“It’s a fairly high stan­dard. If the speeds are high enough, that can con­sti­tute gross neg­li­gence… and here we have speeds of at least 121 mph in a 40 mph work zone, which is pretty ex­treme,” ex­plained county Deputy District At­tor­ney Thomas W. McGoldrick.

Judge Todd D. Eisen­berg de­ferred sen­tenc­ing so that court of­fi­cials can com­plete a back­ground in­ves­tiga­tive re­port about Wal­ters.

Wal­ters faces a pos­si­ble max­i­mum sen­tence of seven to 14 years in prison on the charges. How­ever, state sen­tenc­ing guide­lines could al­low for a lesser sen­tence.

“The com­mon­wealth will be seek­ing jail time in this case. Ob­vi­ously, the length of jail time will be up to Judge Eisen­berg,” said McGoldrick, who is as­sisted by co-pros­e­cu­tor Sa­man­tha Thomp­son.

Killed in the drag race crash were An­thony Ro­driguez, 23, of East Elmhurst, N.Y., and Marissa Christina Kelly, 20 of Strouds­burg, Mon­roe County, who were pas­sen­gers in the sec­ond car op­er­ated by Shone G. San­ti­ago. Kelly also was preg­nant, au­thor­i­ties said. Kelly’s rel­a­tives were in court to wit­ness Wal­ters’ ad­mis­sion and wept dur­ing the brief hear­ing.

San­ti­ago, 22, of New York, N.Y., faces two counts of third-de­gree mur­der, one count each of third-de­gree mur­der of an un­born child and con­spir­acy to com­mit third-de­gree mur­der and a charge of driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of mar­i­juana in con­nec­tion with the in­ci­dent. San­ti­ago, who is be­ing held with­out bail pend­ing trial, pre­vi­ously filed court pa­pers hint­ing at a po­ten­tial guilty plea to some of the charges dur­ing a “non­trial dis­po­si­tion” hear­ing later this year.

Both men had been sched­uled for a trial on Oct. 16.

“I think any­one in this sit­u­a­tion feels ter­ri­ble. It’s ob­vi­ously a very sad case. I think my client, he’s had a lot of time to think on this and he feels just aw­ful,” de­fense lawyer Ryan L. Hyde said on Wal­ters’ be­half.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors de­ter­mined Wal­ters and San­ti­ago knew each other by at­tend­ing UTI tech­ni­cal school in Ex­ton.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan when West Potts­grove po­lice re­sponded to the east­bound lanes of Route 422 near the Stowe exit for a re­port of a one-ve­hi­cle crash in­volv­ing a white 2007 BMW that left the road­way, crashed through a guard rail and ca­reened 200 feet down an em­bank­ment and into a ravine. San­ti­ago, the driver, and pas­sen­gers Ro­driguez and Kelly were trapped in­side the over­turned ve­hi­cle, ac­cord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint filed by county De­tec­tive David Schanes.

Ro­driguez, the front right seat pas­sen­ger, and Kelly, the rear left seat pas­sen­ger, were de­clared dead at the scene. San­ti­ago was trans­ported by med­i­cal he­li­copter to Read­ing Hospi­tal Trauma Cen­ter in West Read­ing with mul­ti­ple in­juries.

An au­topsy de­ter­mined Ro­driguez and Kelly suf­fered blunt force head in­juries. Doc­tors also de­ter­mined Kelly was 15 weeks preg­nant.

De­tec­tives al­leged San­ti­ago’s car was trav­el­ing at a min­i­mum speed of 121 mph just be­fore the crash.

The crash oc­curred near a construction area and the posted speed limit is 40 mph and the area is marked by construction zone warn­ing signs, au­thor­i­ties said.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors de­ter­mined Wal­ters, driv­ing a 2007 Toy­ota Camry, called 911 and told dis­patch­ers he wit­nessed a car “run off the road.”

In his ini­tial state­ment to de­tec­tives Wal­ters claimed that San­ti­ago and he were trav­el­ing at a slow speed at the east­bound en­trance to the Route 422 by­pass in Dou­glassville, Berks County, when a black Dodge Chal­lenger with a Delaware li­cense plate pulled up be­side San­ti­ago and then both cars “took off just fly­ing.” Wal­ters claimed he even­tu­ally came upon the dam­aged guard rail, stopped his car and saw San­ti­ago’s car in the ravine up­side down.

Wal­ters ini­tially claimed the black Dodge Chal­lenger also stopped at the scene but then fled.

Based on Wal­ters’ de­scrip­tions au­thor­i­ties ini­tially searched for a black Dodge Chal­lenger hav­ing a Delaware li­cense plate.

How­ever, de­tec­tives down­loaded a video from Wal­ters’ cell­phone de­pict­ing an ear­lier race in the south­bound lanes of Route 100 near Shoe­maker Road and de­ter­mined the cars in­volved where op­er­ated by San­ti­ago and Wal­ters, who was film­ing the race as he drove. The video recorded the speedome­ter of Wal­ters’ ve­hi­cle at 137 mph dur­ing the ear­lier race, ac­cord­ing to tes­ti­mony.

Dur­ing a sub­se­quent March 1 in­ter­view Wal­ters then ad­mit­ted to rac­ing San­ti­ago on Route 100 and later on Route 422 and to ly­ing about a black Dodge be­ing part of the Route 422 race, ac­cord­ing to the ar­rest af­fi­davit.

“Wal­ters stated that San­ti­ago asked him if he wanted to do an­other pull, mean­ing race. Wal­ters replied, ‘not re­ally.’ Wal­ters said that they ended up rac­ing any­way,” Schanes wrote in the ar­rest af­fi­davit.

Wal­ters, who ad­mit­ted to trav­el­ing between 80- and 100-mph dur­ing the race, claimed he was be­hind San­ti­ago’s car when he ob­served San­ti­ago lose con­trol of his car on a curve, crash through the guard rail and ca­reen into the ravine.

Evaughn-Sha An­to­nio

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