Tierney's conviction upheld in Red Lion-area DUI manslaughter case

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

Pennsylvania's Superior Court has upheld the conviction of Jodie Tierney, the Red Lion-area woman convicted of providing alcohol to her teenage son and his friends — including two who died in a fiery DUI crash nearly four years ago.

Tierney, 48, now of the 300 block of Pine Valley Drive in Chanceford Township, has remained free on $50,000 bail pending her appeal, which was decided by the Superior Court on Wednesday, May 22.

In addition to affirming Tierney's conviction, the appeals court sided with prosecutors who had filed their own appeal of the case, arguing that Tierney's convictions for counts of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment shouldn't "merge" for sentencing purposes.

The Superior Court agreed in its 48-page opinion that the trial judge should have handed down separate sentences on those counts.

Because of that, the appellate court vacated Tierney's sentence and ordered she be resentenced in York County Common Pleas Court. A new date for that has not yet been set.

Jodie Tierney

Chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker said on Thursday, May 23, that Tierney will not have to report to prison for some time.

Although the Superior Court issued an opinion, the case has not yet been remanded back to York County Court, he said.

Also, Barker said, Tierney has 30 days to decide whether to appeal the Superior Court's decision to the state Supreme Court. Nothing else will happen in the case until then, Barker explained, meaning Tierney will remain free on bail for now.

Barker also confirmed that the Superior Court's resentencing ruling in favor of the prosecution means he can now ask that Tierney's sentences on the involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment convictions be run consecutively.

"The court could ... give a higher sentence," he said, but that will be up to presiding York County Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook.

The background: Stone Hill, 17, and Nick Mankin, 16, were killed shortly after 7 p.m. June 16, 2015, when Stone lost control of his SUV, which flipped, slammed into a utility pole and burst into flames on Slab Road in Lower Chanceford Township, just minutes from Stone's home.

They were on their way to Stone's house from the Tierney home at the time on Percheron Drive in Windsor Township, where they had spent the day hanging out, swimming and drinking, according to testimony from Tierney's trial.

Stone Hill, left, and Nicholas Mankin.

She was convicted July 20, 2017, of  two counts each of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment and one count each of corruption of minors and furnishing alcohol to minors. Tierney was sentenced to 2½ to six years in state prison.

Barker has described the teen drinking parties at the Tierney home as "ragers."

From December 2014 to June 2015, there was vomiting, passing out and one instance of bed-wetting, he said. One young man was body-slammed by a friend for trying to inappropriately touch girls, he said.

One of the young men became so drunk on rum he was unresponsive and had to be carried to his father's car, according to testimony, but still Tierney and husband Stephen D. Tierney didn't alert any parents.

'Epitome of indifference': Barker has called Tierney's inaction "the epitome of indifference" toward the teens and scoffed at her assertion that she had no idea that drinking was going on in her home.

Judge Cook has previously said in court she doesn't believe the statements Jodie Tierney made about the circumstances leading up to the fatal crash.

Cody Stern, a 2014 Red Lion Area Senior High School graduate, front, is comforted by Red Lion student Lindsay Wilhelm at a memorial built at the base of a utility pole on Slab Road in Lower Chanceford Township for their friends and classmates Stone Hill and Nicholas Mankin on the day after the two Red Lion students died in a fiery crash.
(Dawn Sagert photo)

Cook also said the Tierneys took "minimal accountability" for their actions despite their "overwhelming guilt."

"The parenting displayed (by the Tierneys) in this case rivals some of the worst I've ever seen," the judge has said.

More:Prison for woman who gave alcohol to Red Lion teens killed in DUI crash

More:Witness: Tierney said 'she does what she wants - it's her rules'

Appeal issues: Appeal issues filed by Jodie Tierney's appeals attorney, Demetra Mehta, include the argument that the evidence against Jodie Tierney was insufficient to convict. Mehta also is arguing that during trial, the prosecution:

  • Failed to establish Jodie Tierney had a duty to care for Stone and Nick.
  • Failed to establish Stone was driving the SUV that crashed.
  • Didn't prove Stone was given any alcohol by Jodie Tierney on the day of the fatal crash.
  • Failed to prove that the morals of minors weren't already corrupt "because the evidence at trial overwhelmingly showed (Stone and Nick) regularly drank alcohol long before meeting Mrs. Tierney."

The Superior Court wasn't swayed by any of those arguments.

Mehta did not return a phone message seeking comment Thursday, and Jodie Tierney could not be reached for comment.

Probation for husband: Stephen Tierney, 48, was sentenced to three years' probation on his case.

Stephen Tierney

He pleaded guilty July 10, 2017, on the eve of trial, to corruption of minors and furnishing alcohol to minors.

Stephen Tierney's guilty plea was not for the deaths of Stone and Nick. It was for allowing the group of his older son's teen friends to drink at his home on one occasion.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.