Trial closer for couple accused of giving beer to Red Lion teens who died in crash
A trial could begin in July for a Windsor Township couple accused of providing alcohol to two Red Lion football players who died in a fiery crash a couple of hours later.
Stephen D. Tierney, 46, and Jodie L. Tierney, 45, also are accused of repeatedly providing alcohol to their two sons and their sons' friends. The Tierneys were in York County Court on Tuesday morning for a status hearing on their consolidated criminal cases.
Presiding Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook indicated the trial could be scheduled for mid-July, but first she wants the prosecution and defense to let her know if all their witnesses will be available.
Chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker, along with defense attorneys Douglas Bare and Tom Kelley, estimate the trial could take two weeks.
The sides discussed providing evidence to the defense, the large number of witnesses expected to testify and how jury selection might take longer than normal, possibly because of media coverage.
Kelley asked the judge to impose a gag order in the case that prevents prosecutors from speaking with reporters — both on the record and off the record.
"There has been a great deal of publicity in this case," he said.
Barker said while he would certainly go along with such an order, it's "highly unnecessary" because he and other prosecutors already follow ethical rules that prohibit them from discussing a pending case in detail, unless it's something that's been previously discussed in open court.
"We should all be able to (conduct ourselves) as professionals," Barker said.
Cook instructed Kelley to file a written motion seeking the gag order if he still wants one but gave no indication how she might rule.
The background: 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 testimony from the couple's preliminary hearing last summer.
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 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.
In the hours 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 in June 2016, 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 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 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; drivers 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 last summer 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 was a member of the group that hung out at the Tierney home between December 2014 and June 2015.
He testified that 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, Jodie Tierney bought her teenage son a 12-pack of beer that the youths drank at the Tierneys' Gettysburg-area cabin, he said.
Both Nick and Stone, who were close friends, would have been seniors in the fall of 2015, playing for Red Lion's varsity football team, according to their coach, Jesse Shay.
The Tierneys remain 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.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.