Travis Fowler
Travis Fowler

A Red Lion-area man with four DUIs under his belt has been convicted a fifth time -- this time for drunken driving and murder.

Travis Wagner Fowler was drunk when he fatally struck motorcyclist Nelson E. Newcomer, 56, of Millersville, Lancaster County.

Common Pleas Judge Richard K. Renn on Thursday found Fowler guilty of third-degree murder, homicide by vehicle while DUI, causing a fatal crash, DUI, driving without a license and other offenses. Fowler had opted for a non-jury trial.

At the time of the 1 a.m. July 19, 2008, crash on Route 30 in Hellam Township, Fowler was on probation for DUI.

His blood-alcohol level was 0.22 percent, according to his arrest affidavit. In Pennsylvania, an adult is driving drunk at 0.08 percent.

Chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker has said Fowler was going about 100 mph on Route 30 eastbound near the Hallam exit when he ran over Newcomer and fled the scene without even braking.

Sentencing: Fowler, 30, of 554 Jamison Road, remains free on bail pending sentencing, set for April 19, according to court records. The third-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison.

Defense attorney Justin McShane said it's too early to say whether Fowler will appeal the conviction.

"At this point we're focused on his sentence, so we haven't made a decision one way or another about an appeal," McShane said.

He described Newcomer's death as "a tragedy beyond description."

"Our hearts go out to his family, because he did not deserve to die," McShane said.

Barker could not immediately be reached for comment.

No deal: Fowler appeared in court in August, where he was expected to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of 11 to 25 years in state prison.

But instead of pleading guilty, Fowler fired defense attorney Rick Robinson, hired McShane and said he wanted to take his case to trial.

York County court records show Fowler has pleaded guilty to DUI, driving with a suspended license and related charges in four cases since 2002.

As part of his prior prison sentences, Fowler was required to take DUI classes to learn the danger of drunken driving.

The current case has remained in limbo for so long because Fowler appealed a lower-court ruling allowing Barker to introduce Fowler's prior DUIs during trial. That appeal was denied.

Testimony: Eyewitness Edward Dill of Hellam Township testified he was going 60 or 65 mph, when he spotted Newcomer's motorcycle a half-mile ahead of him, going about 50 or 55 mph.

That's when Fowler's red Dodge Durango come from behind, going perhaps 100 mph, Dill testified. All three vehicles were eastbound.

"As he passed me he cut me off the road," Dill testified.

The Durango kept going, at which point Newcomer, who'd been riding in the left lane, activated his motorcycle's right turn signal and began moving to the right, Dill said.

But the Durango also moved from the left lane to the right, and "ran right over" Newcomer, Dill testified.

"(Fowler) never stopped," Dill said. "No brakes, no nothing."

-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at levans@yorkdispatch.com.