Johnstown man faces vehicular homicide charge

Karns allegedly drove on wrong side of the road, striking Kania’s vehicle

BEDFORD — A John­stown man is in jail for killing a woman when he allegedly recklessly drove on the wrong side of a state road in January 2018, according to police.

Ryan Joseph Karns, 35, of 823 Cypress Ave., faces charges of homicide by vehicle, endangering the welfare of children, multiple counts of recklessly endangering another person, careless driving, passing when prohibited, failure to keep right and other related charges.

On Jan. 8, 2018, Karns was reportedly driving south on Route 220 in the northbound lane of travel, passing a PennDOT truck and several other vehicles when he struck the car of Jennifer Kania, who was traveling north in the northbound lane, state police said.

Kania was pronounced dead at the scene. Bedford County Coroner Russell Styer said she died from blunt force trauma because of the motor vehicle crash.

Karns also allegedly struck the front driver side of Phillip Yates Jr.’s vehicle that was traveling south in the southbound lane.

When interviewed by police, Karns allegedly said several times that the crash was his fault and admitted to driving in the wrong lane to pass several vehicles, the criminal complaint states. Police said Karns told them he attempted to move back into the right lane when he saw Kania’s car, but that Yates was in the lane.

The defendant told police several times that Kania did not try to move at all or attempt to brake, stated the criminal complaint.

The front driver’s side of his vehicle reportedly struck the front driver side of Kania’s car, causing his car to spin multiple times until it came to a rest on a grassy area on the side of the roadway. Karns told police he was traveling about 75 mph at the time of the crash.

A passenger in Karn’s vehicle, Stephanie Baxter, confirmed the defendant’s story, according to police. Police said she told them Karns was trying to pass a vehicle when they saw Kania’s car coming toward them and attempted to move over, but Kania “didn’t move and didn’t break, she just stayed in her lane.”

Baxter allegedly had minor facial cuts from the impact of the crash, and her 5-year-old son in the booster seat in the back of the car had a minor scratch on his finger.

Yates, who was driving the other car hit in the crash, reportedly told police Karns tried to pass his vehicle when he saw Kania’s car traveling his direction and warned the defendant of the approaching car while trying to move over onto the berm.

After Karns hit Kania’s car, Yates told police the defendant’s rear passenger side struck the front of his car, damaging the side hood, fuel tank and driver’s side wheel, according to the complaint.

Multiple witnesses told police they saw Karns’ vehicle driving at a speed greater than 75 mph, traveling south in the northbound lane prior to the crash, the complaint states.

Police said one witness, who said he tried to assist Kania but that she was unresponsive, told them he went to check on Karns who told him he had been arguing with his girlfriend and not paying attention to the road.

A reconstruction of the incident found that Karns was driving the vehicle at a speed of 96 mph and never touched the brakes before the crash, with the speedometer needle staying at the speed due to loss of power from a destroyed battery, police said.

“Karns took no actions to attempt to avoid colliding with the northbound vehicle before it was too late” and had the chance to pull back into the southbound lane in front of the PennDOT plow truck to prevent the crash from happening, states the complaint.

The defendant was arraigned Wednesday in front of Magisterial District Judge H. Cyril Bingham Jr. He waived his preliminary hearing in front of Magisterial District Judge Tonya Osman Wednesday.

Karns is housed at the Bedford County Jail on bail set at 10 percent of $80,000. He also has a cash bail of $15,000 for DUI-related charges.

Mirror Staff Writer Shen Wu Tan is at 946-7457.

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