Prison for drugged driver who struck York City mother

Jason Addy

A Newberry Township man who ingested four bags of heroin before crashing his vehicle into a York City mother of two in August was sentenced Friday to serve two to four decades in prison.

Tyler James Connelly, 26, of 700 Cassel Road, Lot 27, will remain in state prison until at least 2036 after Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook handed down a sentence of 19 years to 38 years for his multiple felony convictions and parole violations.

Tyler James Connelly

Connelly  also was  ordered to pay more than $1.37 million in restitution to Cheyann Miller, who spent a week in a medically induced coma after Connelly crashed his mother’s car into her as she unloaded groceries from her vehicle in the 700 block of Roosevelt Avenue on Aug. 10, 2016.

Six months after being struck by a driver allegedly under the influence and losing her right leg, Cheyann Miller of York walked for the first time thanks to a prosthesis, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017.   John A. Pavoncello photo

Miller’s right leg was amputated, and her left leg was mangled after Connelly crashed into her about 4 p.m. that afternoon without braking or swerving. Miller has recently learned how to walk again using a prosthetic limb.

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On Feb. 27, Connelly pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, aggravated assault by motor vehicle while driving under the influence, causing an accident involving death or personal injury, aggravated assault by vehicle, careless driving, driving on a suspended license/DUI related and DUI/third or subsequent offense.

‘Horrendous crime’: Miller, 29, spoke at Connelly’s sentencing Friday, telling him that he ruined her life and the lives of her children, fiance, sister and parents by driving after ingesting heroin.

“Imagine being a young healthy woman with dreams of modeling as well as owning a day care, while raising her two ... little boys with her perfect fiance. Now imagine sweet life as they knew it being torn away in the flash of a second,” Miller said. “That is the reality of this horrendous crime you have committed. Not only have you affected and forever changed my life, but you have ruined the life of my family as we knew it.”

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Miller said her sister has had to uproot herself and her son in order to tend to Miller's medical needs and to step into the roles she once fulfilled in her family.

After telling the court she had died for 23 minutes on the operating table, Miller asked why Connelly felt he had the right to get high and then get behind the wheel.

“Every day is a struggle,” Miller said, with her injuries preventing her from doing things she once took for granted, such as showering daily and dressing herself. Miller told the court she still needs help to put her shoes on.

“I used to feel beautiful,” Miller said. “Now I’m not sure how I feel.”

While Connelly spends at least the next 19 years in state prison, Miller said she will try to move on with her life.

“I want you to think of me every day you stand up and take a breath,” Miller said. “You may not see me again, but I will be there in your head.”

After Miller’s victim-impact statement, Connelly said he pleaded guilty to the charges to “get the process over” and give Miller and her family “a little closure.”

Connelly said he realizes his actions  “affected so many lives” but maintained he “never set out to hurt anyone that day.”

‘Abrupt impact’: Before being sentenced Friday, Connelly pleaded guilty to forging his name on a check from his mother and then using the cash to buy heroin on Aug. 10, less than two hours before striking Miller as he dozed off while driving high.

After picking up 10 bags of heroin in the 200 block of Roosevelt Avenue in York City, Connelly and his passenger, Michael Brooks, agreed to take the drugs immediately, according to charging documents.

Connelly ingested four bags of heroin and gave two bags to Brooks, which he ingested, according to a state police report. Connelly continued to drive around and was dozing off from the drugs he used, Brooks told police. He said he was looking down at his phone when Connelly struck Miller, according to the report, and he felt an "abrupt impact."

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Miller's Chevrolet Suburban was legally parked in front of her residence when Connelly drifted out of his lane and drove his Saturn "right into" her, crushing her between his vehicle's front end and her vehicle's rear end, the documents said.

Connelly did not have a valid driver's license at the time of the wreck. According to the report, Connelly's driving privileges have been suspended or revoked for the better part of the last eight years, since a DUI conviction in 2008 and another in 2009, the documents said. His license has been actively suspended since 2012, the documents said.

During his February guilty plea hearing, Connelly told Cook that he’d used heroin and benzodiazepines and also had cocaine in his system when he got behind the wheel.

“At the time I wasn’t thinking about anything else but getting high,” Connelly told the judge.

In February, Connelly also pleaded guilty in two other cases to charges of conspiracy to commit retail theft and forgery, for shoplifting and forging a check.

Connelly received sentences of one to two years in prison on three charges stemming from those cases, each of which will run concurrent with his sentence for severely injuring Miller.