Defense challenges police account of crash that killed Red Lion football players
Four witnesses into the prosecution's case against Windsor Township resident Jodie L. Tierney, at least a portion of her defense attorney's strategy became clear.
Chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker and senior deputy prosecutor Sarah Buhite called four people to the stand Tuesday morning — an ambulance worker, a state trooper, a York County deputy coroner and a lab technician.
Tierney, 46, of Percheron Drive, is accused of repeatedly allowing Red Lion Area High School students, including her older son, to drink alcohol at her home and vacation cabin. She bought them alcohol on three occasions, the prosecution alleges.
Two of those teens, high-school football players Stone Hill, 17, and 16-year-old Nicholas Mankin, were drinking at the Tierney home during the day on June 16, 2015. They died in a fiery crash about 7 p.m. on Slab Road in Lower Chanceford Township while on the way to Hill's home from the Tierney home, according to testimony.
State police allege Tierney's conduct led to the teens' deaths. She remains free on bail, charged with two counts each of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment and one count each of furnishing alcohol to minors and corruption of minors.
Defense strategy: During his cross-examinations of Tuesday morning's witnesses, defense attorney Douglas Bare questioned the prosecution's assertion that Stone was driving his Toyota 4Runner at the time of the crash.
That's likely because alcohol testing wasn't done on Nick. If Bare can create doubt in jurors' minds that Stone was the driver, it would most likely exonerate Tierney of the manslaughter charges.
Bare also is questioning the accuracy of Stone's alcohol test.
A lab technician testified Tuesday that Stone's blood-alcohol level was 0.094 percent. In Pennsylvania, an adult is driving drunk at 0.08 percent.
In his opening statement Monday, Bare questioned whether the BAC result was reliable and cast doubt that the blood sample was taken correctly.
Took on witness: During his cross-examination of York County Deputy Coroner Jeffri Goodfellow, Bare made sure jurors knew she doesn't have a college degree and has no police training in accident reconstruction.
Later, on redirect by Barker, Goodfellow told jurors she has training in crashes from her time as a rescue worker. She said she's been called to the scene of about a thousand crashes as deputy coroner.
Bare objected, but Goodfellow was allowed to testify that, based on the position of the bodies in the burned SUV, Stone was driving and Nick was in the front passenger seat.
"I don't think a coroner can jump into those conclusions," Bare told presiding Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook, outside the jury's earshot.
Teens' friend testifies: Cody Heffner, now 20 but 17 at the time, was part of the group of students who partied at the Tierney home.
He testified that the group hung out there "most weekends" and drank there and at the Tierney vacation cabin eight to 10 times between Christmas 2014 and June 2015.
According to Heffner, Jodie Tierney bought them alcohol to drink three times and saw them drinking on other occasions. She did not stop them or call their parents, he said.
She also never told them not to drive and never took their car keys, Heffner testified. The group usually drank in the basement, he said, and the Tierneys never went down there to check on the teens.
Heffner told jurors that the teens didn't bother to clean up their empty bottles because they weren't concerned about getting in trouble from the Tierneys. He testified he didn't tell his own parents, for fear of repercussion.
Heffner said on the night of June 15, 2015, the group was drinking at the Tierney home, and he and others slept there overnight.
The next day, they woke up in the morning and started drinking again right away, he testified.
No 'rules': He said he didn't worry about doing that because "we were always welcome there," and there weren't "any rules" at the Tierney home.
They drank the leftover booze from the night before, primarily beer and shots of rum, Heffner said.
They left the home twice to go to convenience stores, once around noon and again a bit before dinnertime, according to Heffner's testimony. Stone drove, and on the second trip even took the Tierneys' 10-year-old son with him.
Heffner said he thought Stone was OK to drive, despite Stone having done four or five shots of rum.
Stone and Nick left about 6:30 p.m. after Stone was called home to do chores, according to Heffner. The fatal crash happened about a half-hour later.
Guilty plea: Tierney's husband, 46-year-old Stephen D. Tierney, pleaded guilty Monday to corruption of minors and furnishing alcohol to minors. He had been scheduled to stand trial with his wife.
His charges of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment will be dropped at his sentencing, according to the judge. That is set for Aug. 21.
Stephen Tierney's guilty plea was not for the deaths of Stone and Nick — it was for allowing the group of teens to drink in his home.
Testimony in Jodie Tierney's trial is set to resume at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.