Driver facing trial for killing bicyclist on York County's Rail Trail

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

A York City man with a history of suffering seizures while driving is now facing trial in York County Court for causing a crash that killed a bicyclist on the York County Heritage Rail Trail last year.

At the close of a preliminary hearing on Thursday, Nov. 21, District Judge Ronald Haskell II ruled there is enough evidence against Murphy Franklin Jr. for the man to stand trial in the June 28, 2018, crash death of 45-year-old Christopher Kress.

Franklin, 49, of Jefferson Avenue, remains free on $50,000 unsecured bail, charged with the third-degree felony of homicide by vehicle.

Haskell set Franklin's formal court arraignment for Dec. 27, according to court records.

"This is a tragedy for the victim and for the victim's family," said public defender Matt Sembach, who represents Franklin.

The defense maintains Franklin is not responsible for the crash and not guilty of vehicular homicide, Sembach said.

Murphy Franklin Jr.

The background: Franklin has been involved in four serious crashes in the past eight years and has admitted to not taking his seizure medication prior to some of those crashes, York City Police have said.

Court documents state Franklin was driving a Chevrolet Impala north in the 500 block of Jessop Place in York City and failed to stop at stop sign, instead going through an intersection about 4:50 p.m.

The car went over a curb and sidewalk, crossed a patch of grass and hit Kress, police said.

Kress, who was riding his bicycle on the Rail Trail, was thrown down an embankment, court documents state. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Franklin  told investigators he woke up that morning with a headache but, despite his history of seizures, didn't think much of it, according to police.

Christopher Kress, 45, was fatally struck by a car that went off a York City road and onto a portion of the York County Heritage Rail Trail on June 28, 2018.

He took his medication and left the home, and the next thing he remembered was waking up in an ambulance after the crash, court documents state.

He claimed he had a seizure and blacked out before hitting Kress, police said.

Officer Derek Hartman, York City Police spokesman, said Franklin was charged because he should have known something bad could happen, based on past crashes.

It was the fourth crash Franklin was involved in since 2011, according to court documents.

2011 crash: Franklin caused a July 7, 2011, crash that injured several people, according to court documents filed by Northern York County Regional Police.

It happened about 7 a.m. on North George Street near the intersection of Masonic Drive in Manchester Township, police said at the time.

Franklin was driving south on George Street at a high rate of speed when he struck three mailboxes near the Hayshire Drive intersection and went around a southbound Rabbit Transit bus, court documents state.

Franklin's car struck trash cans and recycling bins in the 2300 block of North George Street, then crashed into one southbound vehicle, pushed a second into a guard rail and finally struck a car that was stopped for a red light at the Masonic Drive intersection, Northern Regional Police said.

A memorial stands near Heritage Rail Trail at the intersection of Kings Mill Road and Jessop Place in York City, Tuesday, July 3, 2018. Bicyclist Christopher Kress, 45, of York City, was struck and killed by driver Murphy Franklin Jr., 47, also of York City, on Thursday June 28, when Franklin lost control of his car while driving north on Jessop Place. Dawn J. Sagert

Franklin's car went off the road and over an embankment then flipped over near the Comfort Inn, police said.

One driver suffered a concussion, fractured vertebrae, a fractured sternum and bruising to her face, police said. Two other drivers suffered injuries, as did Franklin, according to court documents.

Blacked out: Franklin told police he had left work because of a migraine then blacked out while driving, documents state.

Charges for the crash were filed against Franklin in December 2013, and a jury acquitted him of all charges in January 2015, court records state.

His defense attorney in that case told The York Dispatch that Franklin had a seizure while driving.

York City Police said Franklin crashed his car in April 2012 and May 2014, and both times admitted he had stopped taking his seizure medication. Police did not say where those two crashes happened. 

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.