|Shamus Digney, Cullen Keffer (center) Ryan Lesher|
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
New York girl, father charged in crash that killed 3 Council Rock students
Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2014
The day before a 15-year-old girl lost control of her dad’s SUV and crashed it, killing three Northampton boys, her dad let her drive the 2001 Chevy Suburban from their suburban New York City home to their vacation home in the Pocono Mountains, according to court documents.Then, a couple of hours before the Aug. 30 fatal accident, Michael Ware allegedly waved goodbye to his daughter Julia and her 15-year-old friend as Julia allegedly drove the same SUV to pick up four 15-year-old boys to go to a nearby barbecue restaurant.
The 53-year-old New York man even asked the girls to bring him back a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, according to court documents filed Wednesday. The documents charge Ware with involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of children, false reports and other offenses in the fatal Labor Day weekend accident.
Ware’s daughter Julia, who turns 16 Saturday, was also charged Wednesday in connection with the accident. Her case was filed in juvenile court and the DA didn’t release her name or what charges that she faces. Calkins Media obtained Julia Ware’s name through the Pennsylvania Right to Know law.
“This was a horrific tragedy, and unfortunately, one that could have so easily been prevented,” Wayne County District Attorney Janine Edwards said in a press release. “The law must be followed in order to prevent such a tragedy in the future.”
The Courier Times was unsuccessful Wednesday in reaching Michael Ware for comment at his home in Scarsdale, New York, an upscale suburb north of New York City.
The arrests follow more than three months of waiting for the families of Cullen Keffer, Shamus Digney, Ryan Lesher and Ryan Keim, the Council Rock High School South students riding in the SUV when it went out of control and flipped. The crash killed Cullen, Shamus and Ryan Lesher, and seriously injured Ryan Keim.
Edward Lesher said Wednesday he believes Julia Ware should be charged as an adult.
“She knew what she was doing. She wasn’t taking this seriously,” Lesher said, adding that even he doesn’t know what offenses Julia Ware is charged with because the charges were filed in the juvenile system.
The Courier Times was unsuccessful in reaching the Keffer and Digney families for comment Wednesday.
Michael Ware, who’s free on $100,000 unsecured bail, allegedly lied to Pennsylvania State Police who were investigating the accident about not giving his daughter permission to drive the SUV. A subsequent police investigation found Ware had given his daughter permission to drive the day of the accident and other times, according to the Wayne County DA’s office.
Witnesses who were interviewed after the accident told Pennsylvania State Police troopers that they saw a dark SUV speeding down a hill in the 3000 block of Goosepond Road, near St. Mary Church Road, before hearing a loud crash. The accident scene is near the resort community of Wallenpaupak Lake Estates, where both the Ware and Lesher families have vacation homes. Edward Lesher was staying with the four boys at the home for the Labor Day weekend.
Marie Drobnicki, who lives on Goosepond Road, told investigators she was in her backyard and heard boys’ voices yelling “slow down” before she saw the SUV and then heard a “horrible sound of a vehicle rolling over,” according to a probable cause affidavit.
Ryan Keim told police Julia was “flying” and he and his friends told her to “slow down,” court documents stated.
Rebecca Kelly, 15, of Westchester County, New York, who was also in the vehicle, told police she and Julia went to Dunkin’ Donuts around 9:30 a.m. and then returned to the Ware house, before going to Lesher’s home to pick up the boys and drive to the restaurant.
On the return trip, as the SUV rounded a turn, the front passenger side tire went off the road and onto the grass, then the car flipped and landed on the driver’s side, Rebecca told police. She, Julia and Ryan Keim were able to climb out of the car.
Michael Ware appeared at the accident scene shortly afterward and told state police he was in the house cleaning when his daughter took the SUV without his knowledge, according to court documents. He told police he let her drive the vehicle on private roads in the resort under his supervision.
Initially, Julia Ware backed up her father’s story, telling authorities she took the vehicle without his permission to a nearby barbeque restaurant on Goosepond Road, the affidavit said.
“I was driving too fast; arrest me,” Julia told police, then put her hands out in front of her body “as if waiting to be handcuffed,” according to court documents.
The hospital where Julia Ware was treated for moderate injuries didn’t draw blood from her for “medical purposes,” according to the affidavit. Ware wasn’t talking on her cellphone at the time of the accident, according to phone records that police obtained. No text message data was retrieved.
Two months after the accident, an attorney representing Rebecca Kelly notified state police that his client had told him that Michael Ware let Julia drive the SUV to Pennsylvania once they were outside New York City, according to the affidavit. Rebecca also claims Michael Ware walked Julia and her to the car before they left for the barbeque restaurant the day of the accident.
Then last month, Julia Ware — through her attorney — submitted a written statement that indicated she had her father’s permission to drive the Suburban to Dunkin’ Donuts and then the barbeque restaurant.
“They asked if they could go to the BBQ Pit and (Michael Ware) stated again, it was OK and asked her to bring him back a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich,” according to the affidavit.
Investigators later found the sandwich in the damaged Suburban, but said at the time they didn’t believe it held any “evidentiary value,” the affidavit said.
Julie Ware also now claims when her dad showed up at the accident scene, she overheard him tell police he didn’t know Julia took the car so “she and Rebecca thought they were supposed to say they had the car without permission so as not to get him in trouble,” court documents allege.
While Julia Ware is charged as a juvenile, if she is adjudicated — the equivalent of found guilty in adult court — more information about her involvement may become publicly available. Pennsylvania law allows limited release of information, including names and charges, if a juvenile is 14 or older and charged with an offense that would be graded as a felony in adult court.