Bedford man guilty of vehicular homicide
BEDFORD – Amanda Winters sobbed in a Bedford courtroom Tuesday as District Attorney Bill Higgins recounted her 5-year-old son’s early-morning death last year on a Bedford Township highway.
Ten months after he drunkenly swung his Chevrolet Malibu into oncoming traffic and slammed into Winters’ car, Cory Childers of Bedford pleaded guilty Tuesday to causing the deadly crash that claimed the life of Julyen Winters, 5, of Hagerstown, Md.
Childers, 23, appeared to avoid eye contact with Winters’ family as he acknowledged his guilt in the April 29 crash, which state police attributed to drug use and a blood alcohol level around 0.2 percent.
Under a plea deal, Childers is set to be sentenced for vehicular homicide by driving under the influence, aggravated assault by DUI, vehicular homicide and drunken driving. A dozen other charges were dropped; Judge Travis Livengood acknowledged Tuesday that some of the four remaining charges may be merged during sentencing.
Each of the two most serious convictions could lead to a maximum 10-year sentence and $25,000 fine.
“It’s not enough. It’s not enough,” Winters said with tears in her eyes as she stood outside the Bedford County Courthouse. “A vehicle is the same as a gun. It’s a weapon.”
Winters and other relatives wore T-shirts emblazoned with photos of a smiling Julyen. Each read: “Safety first – Julyen – taken too soon.”
Police said Childers, who suffered serious injuries in the crash, angrily threatened to “end” officers and denied being behind the wheel as ambulance workers rushed him to Altoona Regional from the wreck on U.S. Route 220 Business.
“Is that what happened?” Livengood asked Tuesday.
“Yes, sir,” Childers replied before looking to the ground.
He was still recovering from a broken leg the last time Julyen’s family saw him, Amanda Winters said. The next time will be his March 22 sentencing – six days before Julyen’s sixth birthday.
“He’s going to be 5 for the rest of his life,” his mother said.
Amanda Winters said relatives from Maryland plan to address Childers before his sentencing. They haven’t been in contact with him or his family since the crash, she said.
Winters said she and her 3-year-old child, also hurt in the crash, still suffer nightmares. Relatives left the courtroom in tears as Higgins explained Julyen’s ejection from the car and death at the scene.
“I said, ‘I’ll see you soon,'” his grandmother, Jacquelyn Lida, recalled as her last words to Julyen. “And I never got to see him again.”