Monday, September 22, 2014

Attorney: Suspects in gay couple attack may claim self-defense

Posted: Thursday, September 18, 2014

Attorneys representing suspects involved in a Sept. 11 assault on a gay couple in Center City Philadelphia are looking into whether it was a case of self-defense, according to a Bucks County lawyer who is representing one of the dozen suspects.
“That scenario is being intensely explored,” Newtown attorney Louis Busico said Thursday morning adding, “The scenario is dramatically opposed and substantially different than the media accounts to date.”
While Busico declined to elaborate, some have claimed to the media that one of the alleged victims initiated the assault after random contact with a woman who was with a crowd of 12 to 15 people at the time.
Video surveillance of potential suspects
A friend of the couple told various news outlets Wednesday that authorities warned them to expect the self-defense angle to emerge in the coming days.
Philadelphia Lt. John Stanford said that investigators are continuing to interview a number of people regarding the incident. He added that individuals in the police video as well as civilian witnesses have come forward.
“(Police) are also trying to determine if there is any additional video confirming or contradicting,” Stanford said. “It’s our responsibility to bring those in who are responsible for committing a crime, but it’s also our responsibility to thoroughly investigate to make sure the right person or persons are charged.”
Busico declined to identify his client, who has yet to meet with investigators. Philadelphia police have not identified any of the suspects who, Busico believes, were mostly in their mid-20s.
He said at least six individuals have retained lawyers, but it’s unclear how many have spoken to police at this point. Busico said that not all alleged assailants are male.
“Maybe rather than giving in to the hysteria of the moment and pointing accusatory fingers at either side, everyone would be better served by letting the investigation take its course,” Busico added.
On Wednesday, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia issued a statement condemning the attack on behalf of Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster. The statement said that some of the school’s former students were allegedly involved in the incident. An archdiocesan spokesman also confirmed that the school had terminated a contract with an unidentified assistant basketball coach at Wood, and said the person would be barred from coaching at any archdiocesan school.
On Thursday, the archdiocese revised its statement to say that the coach — facing termination because of the incident — had agreed to resign.
The statement said the school community wanted to make it “emphatically clear that the school does not, under any circumstances, tolerate or condone the violent and hateful behavior displayed by those who took part in this senseless attack.”
In an accompanying statement, also released Thursday, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said, “Violence against anyone, simply because of who they are, is inexcusable and alien to what it means to be a Christian.
“A key part of a Catholic education is forming students to respect the dignity of every human person whether we agree with them or not,” Chaput said. “What students do with that formation when they enter the adult world determines their own maturity and dignity, or their lack of it.”
Busico, who declined to say if his client has a connection to Wood, said on the evening of the attack his client was among a group of people enjoying a dinner at La Viola, an Italian restaurant near where the assaults took place at 16th and Chancellor streets. He pointed out that surveillance video shows it appears that none of the group were behaving in a rowdy or intoxicated manner.
“It doesn’t appear anyone was seeking an altercation,” Busico said.
A security video of the group walking in the city just prior to the attack was posted by police Tuesday, and the social media community went to work. Within hours, a Twitter user posted a photo of the men and women gathered at a restaurant believed to be La Viola the night of the attack.
Social media users soon figured out the name of the restaurant they dined at and used Facebook to find people who had checked in there. From there, social media users started coming up with the names of those pictured.
Philadelphia police said the gay couple, in their late 20s, were held down, punched and beaten after they bumped into a group of about a dozen people on the street Thursday night, just blocks from a part of town known as “the Gayborhood.” Members of the group shouted slurs as the men were pummeled, police added.
One man was left with a broken eye socket and a wired jaw, while his partner had bruises and a black eye.
State Rep. Brian Sims, the state’s first openly gay lawmaker and a Democrat from Philadelphia, said the local gay community is outraged over the case.
He hopes it will add to the growing — if ignoble — list of cases he can cite in a push to include sexual orientation in the state’s hate crime laws. Currently, it is not, although gays won the right to marry this year after a federal judge struck down the state ban.
“If we can accept as a society that two people who love each other should be able to get married, maybe that will help the understanding that perhaps they shouldn’t have to fear being fired, or fear for their safety in their hometown,” Sims said.
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181;email:; Twitter: @jociavaglia

Women make up small percentage of sex offenders

Posted: Tuesday, September 16, 2014

They connected on a mental level, authorities say. She was 29 and he was 14.
They talked and exchanged text messages, some with sexually explicit photos that she sent him, police said. During at least three secret rendezvous, they had sex before the six-month relationship ended with the 2011-12 school year, they added.
Fast forward two years and the Central Bucks School District band director, Bridgett Szychulski, now 31, is facing criminal charges for her alleged sexual contact with the boy who was her student when she worked at Lenape Middle School.
The case is the latest in a series of local women accused of engaging in sexual relationships with children.
On Monday, the day before Szychulski, who is married, a mother and pregnant, surrendered to police, a 26-year-old woman was arrested by Middletown police accused of plying a 13-year-old boy with vodka before sexually assaulting him last month.
Since 2012, four more Bucks or Montgomery county women — all but one a school teacher — have been accused of inappropriate relationships with students.
Still, the number of women sex offenders is low compared to the number of men who commit similar crimes.
In Pennsylvania, eight of the 1,142 registered sexually violent predators — considered at highest risk for re-offending — are women, according to the state’s Megan’s Law registry. Among Bucks County’s 375 registered sex offenders, seven are women. In neighboring Montgomery County, women account for 17 of the 631 registered sex offenders.
In a potential demographic shift, a significant increase was seen in the number of adolescent girls entering the juvenile court system for sex offenses between 1997 and 2002, according to the federal government. Among this age group, incidents of female-perpetrated forcible rapes, other violent sex offenses and nonviolent sex offenses jumped 6 percent, 62 percent and 42 percent, respectively, the Department of Justice found.
Behavior experts have suggested that more research into female-driven sex crimes is needed, suggesting that a new offender typology needs to be developed. Women sex offenders share some common traits with male sex offenders, particularly grooming behaviors, choosing victims they know, and using emotional manipulation, not physical violence, to continue a relationship, behavior experts said.
Women sexual predators are often overlooked because society historically views them as nurturers, not dangerous, behavior experts say. Many alleged female sex abusers are young (31 is the average age of a first offense), attractive, even married, according to studies.
Lingering stereotypes about sexual contact between adult women and teen boys also often minimizes its seriousness, according to studies and experts.
Researchers have found that most law enforcement training ignores women as potential sex offenders. Studies have found police officers reacted with “disbelief” to allegations of sex crimes involving women, minimized the seriousness of the reports, viewed female suspects as less dangerous and were more apt to label a case as “unfounded.”
Females don’t fit sex offender stereotypes, according to psychologist Julia Hislop, who has extensively studied female sex offenders. Hislop’s research has found that women who engage in sex acts with juveniles rarely show an exclusive sexual preference for children. Many, but not all, female abusers have experienced childhood sexual abuse. Women also tend to focus on one or two individuals, rather than multiple victims as is more common among male abusers.
In her research, psychiatrist Janet Warren, of the Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy at the University of Virginia, says she has never encountered a woman pedophile. Neither have any of her colleagues, including Hislop, she said.
She believes that many of these adult woman/teen boy relationships aren’t about sex and control as much as emotional attachment. She described women sex offenders — particularly teachers — as “situational offenders.”
“I don’t think of these women as predatory,” Warren said, adding that studies suggest the rate of sexual abuse in schools is higher than most anticipate.
A common denominator among young sexual assault victims is frequently their abuser is someone they know, trust and often love, according to Patti Levenberg, counseling coordinator for the Bucks County Network of Victim Assistance. Often they don’t see the sexual contact as wrong, she said.
“If someone knows the victim and the victim trusts that adult, in that relationship it creates access,” Levenberg said, adding that “Secrecy is the key to maintaining the relationship for the offender.”
Bucks County authorities say the now 16-year-old accuser notified Szychulski — a married mother of a 4-year-old boy and expecting a second child — that he told a friend in July about their past relationship.
Authorities said the allegations of inappropriate contact were reported Thursday by an anonymous “mandated reporter” to the Pennsylvania Child Abuse Hotline in Harrisburg. The boy was interviewed that day at the Bucks County Children’s Advocacy Center in Warwick, where he also disclosed the alleged sexual contact, according to court documents.
That such behavior could take place under the noses of adults isn’t unusual, NOVA’s Levenberg said. The secret nature of the relationships makes it harder for other adults to see “red flags” that something is wrong, especially if the adults around the child also trust the offender.
“It’s difficult for children, especially kids in their early teens, to really look at this through the perspective of abuse or victimization because it’s a relationship that is built,” she added. “They see it as a relationship, not a situation in which they are being forced or controlled or manipulated. It’s harder for them to view it as that.”

Police: Middletown woman, 26, sexually assaulted boy, 13

Posted: Monday, September 15, 2014

A 26-year-old Middletown woman is accused of plying a 13-year-old boy with alcohol before allegedly sexually assaulting him last month.
After the assault, the accuser immediately told his parents that Bethann Wagner attempted to have sex with him, Middletown police said.
Bethann Wagner
The teen disclosed the Aug. 21 sex act during a subsequent interview at the Children’s Advocacy Center in Doylestown, where he told authorities that Wagner had provided him with alcohol, according to a probable cause affidavit. He alleges Wagner poured a cup of vodka into his mouth, the affidavit said.''
After giving him the vodka, Wagner allegedly began passionately kissing the boy on a couch, court documents said. Another boy confirmed in a police interview that he witnessed the two kissing, police said.
The boy and Wagner then went across the street to another house where the entered an upstairs bedroom and engaged in sexual contact. At some point the boy told Wagner he didn’t want to have sex, and he left the house.
When he returned home, he told his parents what happened with Wagner, police said.
At her arraignment Monday night, Wagner, whose last address was Washington Avenue, claimed she had been homeless for two months.
She also had an active bench warrant for failing to appear last month for her formal arraignment on simple assault and related charges.
Wagner is charged with rape, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault and related charges. She was arraigned before Penndel District Judge Daniel Baranoski and sent to Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $350,000 bail.
Baranoski included as bail conditions that Wagner have no contact with victims or witnesses, no unsupervised contact with minors and she must provide a valid address.

Bensalem opens first in-house blood testing lab for DUI suspects

Posted: Monday, September 15, 2014

Most Bucks County police departments test the blood of all suspected intoxicated drivers. Bensalem didn't.
Bensalem police used blood tests — considered the gold standard in DUI testing — only when a driver was suspected of driving under the influence of drugs, township's Director of Public Safety Fred Harran said.
When an officer believed alcohol was involved, the suspect would undergo a breathalyzer test at police headquarters.
The reason for the different tests was time, Harran said. Hospital blood tests take an officer off the street for 90 minutes, while a breathalyzer takes much less time.
Now the department doesn’t have to choose between the tests.
Recently Harran brought the blood testing to police headquarters, becoming the first in the county to operate an in-house phlebotomy lab.
Paramedics with the Bensalem Emergency Rescue Services will draw and test the blood in a room where police once performed breathalyzer tests. A breathalyzer calculates the concentration of alcohol exhaled from the lungs, but its accuracy often is scrutinized by defense attorneys and it's useless if a person is under the influence of drugs.
Bensalem paramedics will be notified when police need blood drawn through the county radio room, said Tom Topley, the squad’s executive director. He added that 911 calls will take priority over police calls for blood draws.
During the past few weeks, paramedics have taken blood three times and the testing has taken no longer than 12 minutes, Topley said. He added on occasions a paramedic will be assigned for the duration of an operation, such as a DUI checkpoint.
Bucks County Chief of Prosecution Matt Weintraub called the idea of an in-house blood testing lab a great one as long as the individuals drawing the blood have the proper certification.
The one-stop nature of Bensalem’s blood testing will also eliminate the need for prosecutors to require hospital workers that draw or handle the blood to appear at trial to testify.
“It will really streamline chain of custody (of the blood evidence) and it will help us with witnesses,” Weintraub said.
Harran anticipates an increase in DUI arrests with the in-house blood draws because, he believes, more drivers who are stopped are using illegal or prescription drugs or drug-alcohol combinations.
"Now we only have to bring a prisoner once, right into headquarters, to take their blood right here," Harran said. "We don't have to go to a hospital and jeopardize safety in the hospital, the safety of the prisoner or the safety of the officer."

Experts: Leaving an abuser is not as easy as it seems

Posted: Friday, September 12, 2014 

She stayed because she had nothing without him. She left because she had nothing to lose.
Even a year later, the local domestic abuse survivor still fears for her life. Even after she moved out of state to get away from her estranged husband, she worries any personal details might risk her safety.
They dated for 18 months before marrying. It was a happy time, she said. He was American. He was kind. No bad habits.
But a month after they got married, everything changed. He started drinking alcohol in excess. He refused to let her talk to her family in her native language. He refused to put her on his employer health benefits plan.
The physical assaults started first in private then in public, she said. He berated her in front of other people. Two months after the first shove, she packed two suitcases and left.
“He just decided that I was his own. He could do anything he wanted with me. It was a nightmare from day to day and it was getting worse,” she said. “I am not the kind of person who would stay too long. That was enough for me to understand nothing could be done.”
Her story is one often heard by Ifeoma Aduba, the executive director of A Woman’s Place, Bucks County’s domestic violence services provider.
But it’s a story that most people rarely hear, she said. The story of domestic violence takes place mostly behind closed doors.
On the rare occasions when abuse goes public — as it did this week with the release of surveillance video of NFL player Ray Rice delivering a knockout punch to his then fiancee in February — Aduba wonders if anyone thinks about how it impacts the person who was abused.
“I hope she is safe,” Aduba said, referring to Rice’s now-wife, Janay. “I can only imagine what conversations are in that house. If it’s anything like a typical domestic violence relationship, it’s (being said that it’s) her fault.”
The video of the February assault has sparked public outrage and criticism directed not only at Rice and the National Football League, but also Janay Rice. Some media pundits and online commentators have questioned, even joked, that she instigated the assault or downplay the severity of it since she remains with her husband.
In response to criticism against Janay Rice, the Twitter hash tags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft began trending with domestic violence survivors offering reasons for staying and leaving an abusive relationship.
“It’s very convenient for people who don’t want to take responsibility for what they did, or what they could do, to point their finger at the victim,” said Peg Dierkers, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “It’s a convenient way to shift the focus off the bad actor to the person who was hurt.”
Ending an abusive relationship is far more complicated than packing your stuff and walking out the door, domestic violence experts say.
Abusive behavior typically graduates, making it hard to recognize before it gets physical. Children, financial dependence, lack of outside support, religious beliefs and emotional ties make the decision to leave far more difficult, domestic abuse experts say.
“It’s not a made-for-TV movie where we’ve got to wrap this up in two hours; where 20 minutes in, someone is punched in the face and says, ‘Oh let’s go on a second date,’” Aduba said. “The vast majority of the time, when people come through our doors, they don’t want the relationship to end. They want the violence to end.”
It’s not unusual for clients at A Woman’s Place to remain in abusive relationships while working with the agency to develop a safety plan, Aduba said
“It’s more than the public probably thinks — a lot more,” she said. “We all really want to believe we would somehow be immune, that we would never end up in that bad situation. Everyone wants to believe they’d never ever stay.”
But most do stay. Most don’t report the abuse either, experts say.
Individuals who are abused will leave, on average, seven times before finally staying away, according to statistics. There is a high risk of death or injury associated with leaving, and the risk last months or years, according to national statistics.
Still, Aduba isn’t surprised that the release of the more graphic surveillance video has reignited the Rice controversy so many months after the incident occurred. Sometimes people need to see something to believe it, she said.
“It’s an interesting phenomenon to actually see it happening. Part of the challenge anyone who is victimized faces is, as humans, we want to see it before we believe it,” Aduba said. “We want that clear, tangible, I can almost touch it reason. We keep looking for that reason. He had to have had a reason.”

Falls police: Teen stabbing suspect says he was defending another

Posted: Friday, September 12, 2014 '

A 16-year-old Bristol Township teen charged with stabbing two other teens was defending another teen who was attacked during a drug deal, according to a search warrant that provides new details on the case.
The warrant alleges that suspect Christopher Wieland and the other teen were completing a marijuana deal in the backyard of a home in the 50 block of Neptune Lane on Sept. 9 when their two buyers started beating up the other teen.
Wieland told police he grabbed a knife he found in the backyard and stabbed both of the customers, according to the warrant.
The two buyers took off and the suspect and the other teen ran to a nearby house, police said.
The search warrant filed by Falls police sought DNA swabs of blood spatter, any cutting instruments and clothing worn during the commission of an assault.
Wieland is charged as a juvenile with charges of felony aggravated assault, misdemeanor simple assault and possession of an instrument of crime. He is being held at Bucks County’s juvenile detention center and made his first appearance before a judge Friday.
An adjudication hearing, the equivalent of a trial, will take place in 10 days.
The unidentified injured teens, ages 16 and 17, who live in Falls and Bristol, were treated and released for non-threatening wounds at St. Mary Medical Center in Middletown.
Police initially believed the stabbing occurred over a dispute during a basketball game. Later, the injured teens told police that they were attacked by people in a car that was following them while on their way home from a football game with friends at Manor Elementary School, according to the warrant.

Falls police: Bristol Twp. teen arrested in double stabbing

Posted: Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A 16-year-old Bristol Township teen is facing felony assault charges in connection with the stabbing of a 17-year-old and 16-year-old in Falls Tuesday night.
The unidentified injured teens — who live in Falls and Bristol — were treated at and released from St. Mary Medical Center in Middletown for the non-life threatening wounds, Falls Detective Dennis O’Connell said.
The suspect Christopher Wieland is charged as a juvenile with felony aggravated assault, misdemeanor simple assault and possession of an instrument of crime. He is being held at the county’s juvenile detention center in Edison.
Wieland admitted to stabbing one of the teens, O’Connell said.
The investigation is continuing and police are looking for five other individuals — four of them juveniles — who were involved and more arrests are possible, O’Connell said.
The stabbing occurred around 7 p.m. on Neptune Lane in the North Park section of Levittown. Police were flagged down by a resident who said his nephew was involved in an altercation, O’Connell said. The officer saw a large amount of blood in the street and sidewalks and found the two teens who had been stabbed.
Initially police reported the stabbing occurred during a dispute about a basketball game, but O’Connell says that wasn’t the case. He declined to say what the dispute was about.
The younger teen who was stabbed had a wound to his right ear and forearms. The older teen was stabbed in the upper arm and right hand, O’Connell said. The suspect used a small paring knife, he added.

Bristol rape accuser: 'I kept yelling, I have children'

Posted: Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A 19-year-old woman said she expected to have sex with a man for money, but not to get raped by two men at gunpoint and receive no money.
The Philadelphia woman testified on Wednesday that she agreed to meet a man named “Kareem” in Bristol in the middle of the night of Aug. 18 after being contacted through an ad on a website known for advertising prostitutes.
She said she feared for her life that night.
The woman was among three witnesses who testified at a preliminary hearing for Bristol residents Kareem Evans, 21, and Qudre McMilan, 18, who are accused of multiple counts of rape, robbery, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse and conspiracy in the alleged incident.
Qudre McMilan (L), Kareem Evans
The woman testified that Evans contacted her through her Backpage ad around 3:30 a.m. and they made arrangements to meet in the 200 block of Market Street in the borough. The woman said someone drove her to the location and was supposed to wait for her return.
When she arrived, she said Evans, whom she had never met before, waived her down and told her they were going to a nearby duplex in the 200 block of Cedar Avenue. The woman said the house appeared vacant with almost no furniture inside and working lights only in a back room.
She said she left the backroom after hearing a noise and encountered a second man — whom authorities say was McMilan — in the hallway with a shotgun pointed at her. She told the gunman that he could have her phone, but added she had no money.
The woman ended up back in the room with Evans, who choked her until she fell to the floor and almost passed out, she said. The second man turned off the light, entered the room and took her phone, she added.
“I kept yelling, I have children,” she said.
Evans demanded she perform a sex act on him, she said. She refused at first but complied after he threatened to punch her, she said. Evans then raped her, and the second man did, too, she testified.
The woman told the court that she never saw the second man's face or heard his name, since he was behind her when he threatened her with the gun in the hallway. She said he wore bright orange socks and a pair of Nike “Kevin Durant” sneakers.
After the men left, she said she ran back to Market Street but her driver had left. She flagged down a passing motorist, who called police.
She added that the men didn’t return her phone and she was not paid.
On cross examination by public defender Josh Buchanan, who represents Evans, the woman said she expected to get money when she went to the house.
Bucks County Detective Eric Landamia, who was part of the investigation, testified that Evans admitted he contacted the woman for sex and that she charged $150 an hour. Evans claimed that he performed a sex act on the woman, and she performed one on him and they had sex. He also claimed he paid the woman for her services, Landamia said.
Bucks County Detective Tim Carroll testified that he executed a search warrant at Evans’ home where he recovered a cellphone that matched the description of the woman's phone. He also said McMilan admitted that he and Evans had sex with the woman.
Following the two hour hearing — which was delayed for 30 minutes after the prosecution requested that the woman be allowed to use an alias while testifying, and the defense objected — Bristol District Judge Frank Peranteau held both men for trial in Bucks County Court on all charges. They remain incarcerated in Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $5 million bail apiece.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Driver in crash that killed 3 Council Rock students could be ID'd

Posted: Monday, September 8, 2014

A Pennsylvania district attorney says she won’t identify the 15-year-old New York driver who was involved in an accident that killed three Council Rock teens, but that doesn’t mean the information won’t be made public.

Last week, Wayne County DA Janine Edwards said the girl’s identity and the details of the charges won’t be made public because of her age.

“Criminal juvenile matters are not disclosed to the public,” Edwards said.

But that isn't necessarily the case, juvenile law experts said.

Shamus Digney , Cullen Keffer (center) Ryan Leshe

It depends on the crime the person is charged with and the offender’s age. At least one juvenile law expert said, in his experience, felony charges are typically filed in any juvenile case where someone dies. A judge could decide to move the case from juvenile to adult court, too.
As for the girl’s father, who owned the 2001 Chevy Suburban that she drove, it’s unlikely he’ll face criminal charges, a local prosecutor said. Parents aren’t criminally liable for their child’s criminal actions unless the parent’s “conscious objective was to have their child harm someone else,” county prosecutor Matt Weintraub said.
Under Pennsylvania juvenile law, certain offenses — specifically charges that would be graded as felonies for adults — are considered to have “limited public availability,” said Robert Mancini, a Bucks County attorney who specializes in juvenile law.
If the charge falls under the exception — and the offender is at least 14 years old — Mancini said the DA’s office must generate a form that allows the county’s clerk of courts to provide the public with some information about the juvenile: the person’s name, address, the charges, and the disposition, which is the equivalent of a sentence in adult court.
Any member of the public would be entitled to get that information from the clerk of courts, he added. Some information would remain sealed, including police reports filed with the court, Mancini said.
Under the “limited public availability” exception, the juvenile court hearing would also be open to the public, said Michele Walsh, chief of the juvenile division of the Bucks County District Attorney’s office.
A handful of high profile criminal cases involving minors have been made public in Bucks and surrounding counties in recent years.
Fourteen-year-old Winston Charleston, of Philadelphia, was initially charged with third-degree murder as an adult in July 2011 after he took his mom’s car without permission and went joy riding with friends in Northeast Philadelphia. He led state police on a chase before smashing into a car and killing 22-year-old Bensalem resident Daniel Fouracre. The case was later transferred to Philadelphia’s juvenile court, where a judge ordered Charleston to spend four years in a juvenile detention facility and be on probation until he turns 21.
2001 Chevy Suburban involved in triple fatal accident
In December 2012, Dylan Donohoe, then a 14-year-old Council Rock High School South student, was charged with felony-graded terroristic threats and possession of a firearm by a minor after police found two semi-automatic handguns in his room and he made “credible” threats against the school. The next month, a Bucks County judge sent Donohoe to a secure treatment center and required him to perform 100 hours of community service, write a letter of apology to the school district and pay $1,200 in restitution for the K-9 unit sweep of the high school campus.
The state police investigation into the Aug. 30 rollover accident that killed Northampton residents Shamus Digney, Cullen Keffer and Ryan Lesher, all 15, is expected to take weeks. Any decision on criminal charges won’t be made until after the investigation is completed.
A fourth 15-year-old Council Rock South boy was injured, along with the driver and a 16-year-old passenger, both from Pleasantville, New York. The accident occurred in the Poconos.
Authorities say the teenage driver, whose father owns a vacation home near where the accident occurred, took his 2001 Chevy Suburban with her friend, and picked up the four boys from a home in the driver’s development. Investigators have confirmed the girl didn’t have her father’s permission to take the vehicle, Trooper Connie Devens, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania State Police Dunmore barracks, said Friday.
State police believe speed was a factor in the accident, but that won’t be confirmed until the collision analysis and reconstruction specialists complete their report. There were no immediate signs of drugs or alcohol involved in the crash, but state police have secured search warrants to obtain blood samples and examine the SUV, state police spokeswoman Maria Finn said. The driver’s blood will be tested and it could take a few weeks for the result to be returned, Finn said.
The Wayne County DA has said the girl will be charged. Once that happens, a hearing before a juvenile court judge would be scheduled if the girl isn’t sent to a juvenile detention center, Walsh explained. If the girl is detained, a hearing would be scheduled within three days to determine if probable cause exists for the charges.
At that detention hearing, a judge would determine if the minor could be released in a parent’s or guardian’s custody or returned to the detention center until the adjudication hearing, which is scheduled within 10 days if the person is incarcerated. At the adjudication hearing, the judge could issue a disposition — the equivalent of sentencing in adult court. That may not happen immediately, however, if the judge orders evaluations of the minor. At the disposition hearing, victim impact statements could be presented.
A judge hearing a juvenile case has many options, Wayne said, including placing the minor outside the home. Juvenile sentences are indefinite and must be reviewed every six months, but any sentence or probation ends at age 21, Walsh said.
But just because a criminal case starts in juvenile court, doesn’t mean it will stay there, according to Keith Snyder, executive director of the Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission in Harrisburg.
The three deaths plunged Council Rock into mourning 

When a minor is 14 or older and charged with a felony, the judge could transfer the case to criminal court, Snyder said. The judge would review criteria including the impact of the offense on the victim, the impact on the community, any threat to the public, the nature of the offense and the individual’s culpability. Juvenile-to-adult-court transfers typically involve more “chronic or serious cases,” Snyder said.
Juvenile court is the appropriate justice arena for the case, given her age, and the fact that offense wasn’t intentional, said Robert Schwartz, executive director of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia. Additionally, the girl is unlikely to be a long-term threat to society and likely would be amenable to rehabilitation, he said.
But that doesn’t mean a slap on the wrist, Schwartz added. In juvenile cases where a death is involved, authorities “almost never” charge a minor with misdemeanors, Schwartz said.
“Clearly, a 15-year-old driving recklessly would have some degree of murder as a possibility,” Schwartz said. “They’re not going to charge her for not wearing a seat belt — this is three boys (who) lost their lives. The question is how ought she be held in a developmentally proper way.”