No prison for Hanover-area man who caused fatal crash
The children of fatal crash victim Bobbi Jo Wagaman told a York County judge that their parents loved each other and that their father is already being punished enough by the guilt he lives with every day.
Joseph J. McKim, 45, of Penn Township, pleaded guilty Wednesday, May 2, to homicide by vehicle and first-offense driving under the influence for causing the Oct. 29, 2015, crash that killed his girlfriend of 28 years.
"Her wedding dress is sitting at the house because they were finally going to get married," their adult daughter, Jessica McKim, told presiding Common Pleas Judge Harry Ness. "He's never going to forgive himself for this."
As part of a negotiated plea agreement, his other charges were withdrawn — including homicide by vehicle while DUI, which carries a mandatory state prison sentence.
Joseph McKim had no alcohol in his system at the time of the crash, senior deputy prosecutor Justin Roberts said. Rather, his blood tested positive for several prescription drugs, including the opioid fentanyl, as well as generic forms of Zoloft and Klonopin, which is a class of benzodiazepines.
"Everything I was on was prescribed by a doctor," the defendant said in court. He said he wasn't warned by his doctor about driving after taking his medication.
Joseph McKim explained to the judge that a construction-work injury left him in chronic pain and struggling with insomnia.
Pursuant to the plea agreement, he was sentenced to six years of intensive probation, with the first two years on house arrest. He must submit to random drug tests and pay a $1,000 fine.
Although the plea agreement called for no prison time, two of McKim's daughters and his stepson all asked Ness for mercy anyway, not just for their father but also for the youngest sibling, who is now about 10 years old.
One parent left: Jessica McKim read aloud in court a letter her little sister wrote to the judge in which the girl says she is sad and asks Ness not to send her dad to prison because she's already lost her mother.
"If he goes to jail, I have no one," she wrote — a sentiment echoed by her oldest sister.
"This family here today? That's all we have," Jessica McKim told the judge. "That's all we ever had."
Ness spoke directly to the little girl, saying, "I'm not going to be the guy who takes your daddy away."
Chaz Stambaugh told the judge he considers Joseph McKim his father, not merely his stepfather.
He said the pickup truck involved in the crash had been his, and he described its power as dangerous. Stambaugh said the car spun out on him twice, which is what happened in the crash that killed his mother.
"My mom and Joe ... they loved each other," he said. "I don't think she would want any punishment for him."
Jessica McKim said she's confident her mother would not have gotten in a vehicle with her father "if she thought that my dad was at all impaired."
The crash: Acting Penn Township Police Chief Guy Hettinger said Oct. 29, 2015, started out as a rainy day, and area roads were still wet when Joseph McKim was driving along the 1800 block of Broadway (Route 194) in the township, near the intersection of Hershey Heights Road.
The pickup truck crossed into the oncoming lane and was T-boned on the passenger side by an oncoming vehicle, Hettinger said.
Wagaman, 45, was rushed to Hanover Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. McKim was treated and released for his injuries, police said.
Roberts, the prosecutor, told The York Dispatch that Joseph McKim has done extremely well on supervised bail and has taken counseling and drug-testing seriously.
Ness noted that sometimes the sentences he imposes seem unnecessary, because defendants have already imposed judgment on themselves and struggle with long-term guilt.
"Accidents like these can cause a lifetime of pain, a lifetime of sadness," the judge said.
Defense attorney Michael Palermo Jr. told Ness that his client is on a fixed income and asked about possibly mitigating the costs of house arrest.
April Billet-Barclay, director of the York County Adult Probation Department, said house arrest costs $12 a day.
She also said those without financial resources could be eligible for one of 20 indigent relief spots, which are rotated daily.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.