Charges weighed in fatal ATV crash

Everett man facing homicide, other counts in accident that killed Hollidaysburg teen

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A Blair County judge will review criminal charges filed last year in a fatal ATV crash that a defense attorney described on Thursday as a tragic accident that occurred when two deer ran in front of the vehicle.

“This is not a vehicular homicide case,” attorney Brian Manchester said Thursday after a short hearing before Judge Timothy Sullivan where Manchester challenged some of the criminal charges filed against Trenton Ross Bilak, 23, Everett, who remains incarcerated.

Bilak was driving the ATV on April 14 when it struck two deer, throwing him and his 18-year-old passenger, Mikayla Focht of Hollidaysburg, from the vehicle. Focht died at the scene on Knob Road in Greenfield Township.

Bilak is facing charges including homicide by vehicle and accidents involving death or personal injury, misdemeandor involuntary manslaughter and other counts.

Blair County District Attorney Richard Consiglio advised Sullivan that Bilak had familiarity with the area where he was driving and would have known about the potential for deer to cross unexpectedly.

That kind of argument and testimony is speculative and prejudicial, Manchester maintained.

Charges filed by state police at Hollidaysburg indicate that Bilak was familiar with the road and that he had been speeding.

The case has more than sufficient evidence to support inclusion that he was aware of the potential for deer on the road, Consiglio told Sullivan.

Thursday’s hearing was expected to be lengthy because Manchester, in a motion pending before the court, advised that he wanted to challenge the blood-alcohol testing of his client and Conemaugh Nason Medical Center’s method of securing a blood-alcohol reading for use in court.

While the hospital’s procedures for securing blood alcohol readings are fine for medical purposes and use within the hospital, Manchester contends they’re insufficient to hold up in court.

But Manchester’s arguments became moot when Consiglio decided to withdraw three blood-alcohol related charges because of the time lapse between the crash and when Bilak was tested. The testing occurred outside the acceptable time frame for calculating Bilak’s blood-alcohol level at the time of the crash, Consiglio said after the hearing.

Manchester also is asking the judge to dismiss charges of making false statements to police and tampering with evidence. The defense attorney contends that Bilak gave Focht a ride on his ATV so she could get away from Jacob Helsel who was following them in a Jeep.

The three had been at a nearby party where Helsel was accused of making unwanted sexual advances toward a girl and showed interest in doing the same to Focht, Manchester said after the hearing.

Police reported that when Helsel came upon the crash site, he was driving too fast to stop and ran over Focht’s body before swerving and crashing. Subsequently, police indicate that both Bilak and Helsel fled the crash site, then took steps to conceal their vehicles.

Helsel also has pretrial motions pending with the court on criminal charges that state police filed against him, including accidents involving personal injury or death. His attorneys, Chris Jancula and Noah Walstrom, have challenged that charge by linking the Focht’s fatal injuries to the ATV crash. Helsel’s attorneys are also asking the court for their client be tried separately from Bilak.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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