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Thursday, August 16, 2012
Bensalem woman charged with homicide DUI in 2011 motorcycle crash
Posted: August 9, 2012
A Bensalem woman is facing homicide and related charges in a high-speed, drunken-driving accident in Bristol Township last year that took the life of a 30-year-old Montgomery County woman.
Bristol Township police say Pauline Redonggo-Beffert, 46, of Iris Avenue, had a blood alcohol content of .086, which is just above the state’s .08 limit for driving, when her 2010 Chevy Camaro slammed into the back of a motorcycle, killing Janel Cook of Elkins Park and injuring Michael Martell, 43, of Philadelphia.
Police allege Redonggo-Beffert was driving at 92 mph in the minutes before the fatal crash. She was traveling at between 62 and 82 mph at the moment of impact, according to court documents.
The accident happened July 31, 2011, on the 6600 block of New Falls Road shortly before 2:30 a.m. when Redonggo-Beffert’s Chevrolet Camaro collided with the back of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle, police said.
The force of the crash threw Martell, the motorcycle’s driver, and Cook off the bike. Martell sustained pelvic fractures, a foot fracture and a dislocated shoulder. The Camaro ran over Cook, who later died from her injuries, police said.
The speed limit on that portion of New Falls Road is 40 mph, police said.
In November, the case went before a Bucks County grand jury, which returned an indictment against Redonggo-Beffert earlier this month on charges of criminal homicide, homicide by vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, homicide by vehicle, DUI and related offenses. Bucks County Assistant District Attorney Matt Hoover, who is prosecuting the case, declined to say why the the grand jury was needed.
Redonggo-Beffert was arraigned Wednesday morning before Bristol District Judge Frank Peranteau and released after posting 10 percent of the $100,000 bail.
A police investigation alleges that Redonggo-Beffert and her then-boyfriend, John Hughes, 50, of Philadelphia, had been drinking beer at a VFW post in the area of Frankford Avenue and Welsh Road in the city’s Northeast section. Redonggo-Beffert told police she allegedly drank four beers; Hughes drank five, according to the presentment.
After leaving the VFW, the couple drove to Hughes’ home, then Redonggo-Beffert’s home before heading to Redonggo-Beffert’s father’s home in Levittown when the crash occurred, according to the grand jury presentment.
A couple who witnessed the fatal crash told police that they encountered the speeding Camaro about 15 minutes before the accident. They had been driving east on New Falls Road when they noticed the Camaro following them so closely that the passenger worried it would strike their car, according to the presentment.
While the two cars — both Camaros — continued traveling on New Falls Road, Redonggo-Beffert’s car moved side to side and flicked its high beams on and off, according to the grand jury presentment.
As the two cars approached Durham Road — where their side of New Falls Road opens to two lanes — the passenger testified that the Camaro behind them “took off” quickly to the right and continued speeding. The witness also noticed that the driver was a woman with short hair.
The couple said that the other Camaro sped through a steady red light at Bristol-Oxford Valley roads, which is about 1¼ miles from the crash scene, according to the presentment and probable cause affidavit.
Before 2 a.m., Martell had picked up Cook from the Bristol Township bar where she worked. Earlier in the evening Martell admitted he also drank three or four alcoholic beverages that night, but his BAC was .03, according to the presentment.
They rode about 10 miles, Martell testified, before heading back to the bar where Cook worked. Martell was driving east on New Falls Road in the right-hand lane preparing to stop when he heard “tires on the road” behind him. Before he could react, his motorcycle was struck from behind and he was thrown.
As he was on the ground, Martell testified that he heard a male voice — later identified as Hughes’, saying, “She never saw you coming,” according to the presentment.
In a statement presented to the grand jury, Redonggo-Beffert said the motorcycle was in the left lane and switched to the right lane near the McDonald’s on New Falls Road, and she couldn’t stop in time to avoid contact, according to the indictment.
In grand jury testimony, Hughes claimed that the motorcycle “came out of nowhere” and cut right in front of their car. He testified he did not see the vehicle in the left lane nor did he see it switch lanes.
Hughes testified that Redonggo-Beffert’s driving was “fine to him,” according to the presentment.