A Cambria County woman faces felony charges for allegedly causing a deadly crash in Allegheny Township last year.
Jennifer J. Sloan, 32, of 414 Ashcroft Ave., Cresson was speeding and "carelessly switching lanes" when she slammed her 2012 Nissan Pathfinder into the back of a 2004 Hyundai Accent at 9:29 a.m. on April 3, 2013, according to charges filed by state police.
The driver of the Hyundai, 58-year-old Connie Mae Naylor of Dysart, died an hour later in the UPMC Altoona emergency room from blunt force trauma.
This undated photo shows Connie Naylor during a National Day of Prayer ceremony at the Cambria County Courthouse. Naylor was killed in a car accident in April 2013.
A state police investigation of the accident allegedly showed Sloan was eastbound on Route 22, moving between the right- and left-hand lanes, at a speed between 81 and 84 mph when she hit Naylor's car, according to the affidavit of probable cause.
The speed limit on the highway is 65 mph, police noted.
Sloan was driving "at a much higher rate of speed" than Naylor, police said, and after moving into the right lane, came up on Naylor's car. Sloan "had just slightly" started moving back toward the left lane when the Pathfinder struck the back of the Hyundai, police concluded.
Several witnesses told investigators they saw Sloan was abruptly changing lanes and speeding before the wreck, according to state police.
Sloan now faces charges of felony homicide by vehicle and causing an accident involving injury or death while driving without a license, as well as summary traffic violations of speeding, driving on roadways laned for traffic, careless driving and reckless driving.
"All I remember is the car flipping and then coming to a stop," Sloan allegedly told a state trooper after the accident. Police said Sloan said she was "probably in the right lane" and didn't see any cars ahead of her, police noted in the affidavit of probable cause.
Sloan's attorney, Thomas Dickey, said his client is "very sorry and very saddened" for Naylor's death in what he called "a very unfortunate accident."
Dickey said Sloan, who remains free on an unsecured $50,000 bond, hired him ahead of the charges, and when she learned police had sought a warrant for her arrest, she made arrangements to turn herself in.
"Obviously, we contest the accusations," Dickey said, adding that he will be hiring an accident reconstructionist to refute the state police's findings.
Dickey added that, in an accident investigation, determining the speed of vehicles involved making "a guess, an estimate," and he denied the accident rises to the level of a crime because police will have to show Sloan, whose preliminary hearing is slated for April 10, acted with recklessness and gross negligence.
"My client thoroughly denies she was traveling at that high rate of speed," Dickey said.
Naylor's death was devastating to the family, her two sons said this week.
"She was just a fun-loving person," said son Jody Gibbons, 39, of Emeigh. "She loved everyone, forgave everyone and loved God."
Naylor had just left work at the Women's Help Center Inc. in Johnstown that morning and was on her way to Altoona to shop, Jody Gibbons said.
He said after Naylor retired from Laurel Crest Care Center in Ebensburg after 29 years, she landed "her dream job," one where she could counsel women dealing with domestic violence. She would help women find a place to live and often go out and buy whatever they needed for their new apartments out of her own pocket.
Naylor also initiated Cambria County's National Day of Prayer ceremony at the courthouse, and through her church's women's group counseled inmates in state prison.
"She was just a loving person," Jody Gibbons said.
Jed Gibbons, 35, of Northern Cambria, described "the best woman you'd ever want to meet," who couldn't just sit around and lived to help people.
"My mom, she was like our best friend," said Jed Gibbons, who has two boys of his own, ages 9 and 13. Naylor went hunting and fishing with her sons and looked forward to being there to do the same with her grandsons. In the fall of October 2012, while they were bow hunting in Kansas, Naylor remarked how she couldn't wait until her youngest grandson shot his first deer. Just this past deer season, her grandson did that just that, and she missed it, Jed Gibbons said.
"She took a lot away from us - Jennifer Sloan," Jed Gibbons said, adding that he hopes that after the case concludes it will help the family move on. Although nothing will bring his mother back, Jed Gibbons said he would like to see Sloan pay for her actions.
Jed Gibbons said the family has not ever heard from Sloan, and he said all that he and his brother want is a simple gesture - for her to visit the cemetery and place flowers on their mother's grave.
"The loss of our mother was tragic for everyone," said Jed Gibbons. "We hope that justice is served and Jennifer pays the consequences. The Christian my mom was, I believe she would have forgiven her. But me, the son, doesn't."