Sentencing set for duo in fatal ATV crash
Pair plead guilty to criminal charges in accident that killed Hollidaysburg teen
HOLLIDAYSBURG — The young men who rendered guilty pleas to criminal charges in connection with a fatal ATV crash are scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 11.
Blair County Judge Timothy Sullivan is scheduled to sentence Trenton Ross Bilak, 24, of Everett, at 8:30 a.m. and Jacob Ralph Helsel, 19, of Duncansville, at 1:30 p.m., on the pleas they rendered in connection with the death of 18-year-old Mikayla Focht of Hollidaysburg.
Bilak, on June 15, rendered guilty pleas to four charges including homicide by vehicle, which carries a mandatory sentence of at least three years.
Helsel, on June 25, rendered guilty pleas to accidents involving death or personal injury and tampering with physical evidence. He also faces at least three years in jail.
Before rendering guilty pleas, Bilak and Helsel were scheduled for a jury trial in July.
Sullivan announced no specific date for sentencing after accepting Bilak’s plea and indicated that sentencing would be set after a presentencing investigation is finished.
Judge Elizabeth Doyle, who took Helsel’s plea, also ordered a pre-sentence investigation.
Bilak and Helsel, as well as their family members, will have a chance to address Sullivan during the sentencing hearing.
Focht’s family members, who have regularly attended court-related proceedings, will also have a chance to address Sullivan and influence the sentences he will impose. At the time of the crash on April 14, 2017, Focht was a senior at Hollidaysburg Area High School. She had committed to attend Saint Francis University where she was recruited to play softball.
State police at Hollidaysburg filed criminal charges against Bilak and Helsel after an investigation revealed that Focht had been thrown from an ATV that Bilak was driving on Knob Road, a rural area of Greenfield Township.
The crash occurred when the ATV collided with
Helsel, who was following the ATV in a Jeep, was unable to stop and ran over Focht’s body. Based on Focht’s injuries, police charged Bilak with homicide by vehicle. Police charged both Bilak and Helsel with accidents involving death or personal injury because they left the crash site without immediately contacting authorities or summoning help.
Police also accused both Bilak and Helsel of taking steps to hide evidence of the crash before they returned to the crash site where police were on scene. A passing motorist saw Focht’s body and took action to summon police.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.