Trial for couple accused of giving beer to teens who died in crash
Just a couple of hours before an intoxicated Stone Hill crashed his SUV into a telephone pole, killing himself and fellow Red Lion football player Nicholas Mankin, their friend's father, Stephen Tierney, told his wife, "This has got to stop," according to preliminary hearing testimony.
Stephen D. Tierney and Jodie L. Tierney are accused of providing alcohol to a group of Red Lion-area teens, including their two sons, and also are accused of repeatedly allowing the teens to drink in their home and at their Adams County vacation cabin.
State police allege the Tierneys gave alcohol to Red Lion Area Senior High football players Stone, 16, and Nick, 16, who were killed in a fiery crash when Stone's Toyota 4Runner crashed into a utility pole, flipped and burst into flames. It happened in the 200 block of Slab Road in Lower Chanceford Township just after 7 p.m. June 16, 2015.
The night before the crash, a group of teens, including Stone and Nick, had been drinking at the Tierneys' home, according to charging documents.
At the couple's 5½-hour preliminary hearing Monday, a man named Joseph Argento Jr. testified his teenage daughter called him about 3:45 p.m. the day of the crash, summoning him to the Tierney home because Argento's then-16-year-old son was incapacitated from drinking at least a half-bottle of Bacardi rum.
Under questioning by chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker, Argento said his son spent most of his weekends at the Tierney home and usually slept over one of those nights. He said he had no idea his son and other teens were allegedly allowed to drink there. His son, now 17, later testified he didn't tell his father about the drinking because he didn't want to get in trouble.
Son unresponsive: The father said he arrived at the Tierneys' 80 Percheron Drive home in Windsor Township about 4:15 p.m. and found his son facedown on a bed, unresponsive. He said it took him two or three minutes of "yelling, grabbing, smacking and shaking" to get a response from his son, who simply moaned and made noises. Stone and Nick were there at the time, but the Tierneys had not yet made it home, Argento said.
"I asked them what the hell was going on — what happened," Argento said. "Stone said (my son) guzzled half a bottle of rum."
That's when the Tierneys arrived home and apologized, according to Argento.
Argento testified he overheard Stephen Tierney tell Jodie Tierney, "This has got to stop."
Less than three hours later, Stone and Nick would be dead in an alcohol-fueled crash, according to police.
The crash: State police said Stone was driving drunk. Testing determined his blood-alcohol level at the time of the crash was 0.094 percent. In Pennsylvania, adults are driving drunk at 0.08 percent; those under 21 can't drink at all.
Stone was driving between 64 mph and 73 mph when he lost control of the SUV while going into a curve, according to charging documents filed by state police Trooper Jonathan Colarusso. Stone was in the center of the road when he lost control, the trooper wrote.
Colarusso attributed the crash to excessive steering for the speed Stone was traveling, exacerbated by alcohol impairment.
Trooper Evan Buehrer testified that when he arrived at the scene of the crash, it was too late to try to help anyone inside.
"The vehicle was fully engulfed in flames," he said. "The vehicle was so badly damaged and burned it was difficult to tell (make, model or color)."
'Most weekends': Cody Heffner, 18, was also a member of the group that hung out at the Tierney home between December 2014 and June 2015. Heffner became friends with Stone in first grade, he said.
He said their group of friends, which included the Tierneys' older son, hung out at the Tierney home "most weekends" during that time frame. He estimated they drank alcohol there a total of eight to 10 times, almost always in the basement.
Heffner said Stone usually bought Bud Light at a Lancaster County beer distributor but said Jodie Tierney also bought them alcohol.
On one occasion, he testified, "everybody pooled their money together" and gave it to Jodie Tierney, who bought them two 30-packs of Bud or Bud Light, a 12-pack of Four Loko and two 12-packs of Redd's Apple Ale. There were eight to 10 minors drinking that alcohol, according to Heffner.
On another occasion, she bought her teenage son a 12-pack of beer that the youths drank at the Tierneys' Gettysburg-area cabin, he said.
Always welcome: Heffner testified Jodie and Stephen Tierney primarily stayed upstairs while the group of teens hung out in the basement, which had a pool table, a pingpong table and video games. However, they did come downstairs and see the teens drinking, he said.
"We were always welcome there," Heffner said, adding there were no curfews and no rules.
He said he and the other teens never tried to hide their empty cans and bottles "because we all drank there before with no repercussions."
At the close of the hearing, about 6:50 p.m., presiding District Judge John H. Fishel determined enough evidence exists for the Tierneys to stand trial, and he forwarded their cases to York County Court. Their formal court arraignments are set for July 22, court records state.
'Factual conflicts': Attorney Douglas Bare is representing the couple.
"The preliminary hearing established that the commonwealth has a number of factual conflicts between their own witnesses, and the available witnesses also established that Stone Hill was not visibly intoxicated when he left the Tierneys' house," Bare said. "Our position remains they ... were not criminal in allowing Stone to leave their house about an hour and a half before the accident."
Both Nick and Stone, who were close friends, would have been seniors, playing for Red Lion Area High School's varsity football team, according to their coach, Jesse Shay.
Under supervision: The Tierneys are free on $25,000 unsecured bail each, charged with two counts each of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment and one count of furnishing minors with alcohol and corruption of minors.
On June 9, Judge Fishel modified their bail to make it supervised bail, meaning they are now being monitored by the York County Adult Probation Department, Trooper Colarusso confirmed.
He said that happened because Jodie Tierney had some sort of contact with a witness in the case.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.