Red Lion man pleads guilty in crash that killed Felton teen
A Red Lion-area man will likely be sentenced to prison for causing a crash that killed an 18-year-old Felton woman in 2014 and injured her passenger. But whether he spends a few months in county prison or more than a year in state prison has not yet been decided.
Brandon D. Taylor, 21, of 849 Zimmerman Road in Windsor Township, pleaded guilty Monday to the third-degree felonies of vehicular homicide and aggravated assault by vehicle, and to the misdemeanor of reckless endangerment, defense attorney Suzanne Smith confirmed.
Sentencing is set for April 14, she said.
Killed in the Sept. 22, 2014, crash was Elizabeth "Lizzy" Cockey, state police said. She was pronounced dead at the scene from multiple injuries.
She was driving a Saturn southbound on Delta Road, near the Collinsville Drive-In, about 4 p.m. when Taylor, who also was southbound, drove into the oncoming lane and passed her in a Jeep, court documents state.
The crash: When Taylor cut back over to the southbound lane, the Jeep struck the Saturn, which spun out of control, went up an embankment, rolled, struck a utility pole and ended up on its roof, according to documents.
An accident reconstructionist determined Taylor was driving between 83 mph and 96 mph at the time of the crash, and that Cockey was driving between 30 mph and 43 mph, according to Kyle King, spokesman for the York County District Attorney's Office.
Taylor told police he knew Cockey, passenger John Sparks and a 2-year-old boy in the Saturn, and said they had come from a Brogue convenience store, according to documents.
"The defendant stated he was screwing around when he attempted to pass the Saturn and that his actions were careless," court documents state.
The area is posted with no-passing signs, according to police.
Sparks suffered a concussion, a fractured vertebra and other injuries, according to police, and the 2-year-old suffered moderate injuries. Sparks was Cockey's boyfriend, according to her obituary.
Vehicle as weapon: There was no agreed-upon sentence, according to Smith, although the prosecution did agree the sentences on the three charges will run concurrently.
Because Taylor has no prior record, Pennsylvania's sentencing guidelines call for a standard sentence minimum sentence of anywhere between three and 12 months, Smith said, which are county-prison sentences.
But the prosecution is seeking a weapons enhancement that would increase Taylor's minimum sentence to anywhere between 15 and 24 months, Smith said. Those are state prison sentences.
"The commonwealth wants to enhance the sentencing guidelines by saying a car is a deadly weapon," Smith said. "So what should be a non-state sentence becomes a more-than-likely state sentence."
Unfair? Smith said she believes that because vehicular homicide requires a defendant to be using a vehicle when the offense occurs, the vehicle is really an element of the crime and therefore shouldn't be used as an enhancement.
"It seems kind of unfair," she said.
Smith said she must do more legal research on the matter, adding that presiding Common Pleas Judge Richard K. Renn has asked both sides to file briefs on their enhancement arguments prior to sentencing.
Senior deputy prosecutor Sarah Buhite declined comment until after Taylor is sentenced.
Cockey graduated from Kennard-Dale High School, according to her obituary.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org.