2011-06-30 / Front Page

Bowman Gets 30 Days In Vehicular Homicide

Needmore man fell asleep at the wheel
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

A Needmore man began a 30- day sentence in Franklin County Prison Tuesday for his role in a two-vehicle collision that claimed the life of a fellow southern Fulton County resident nearly one year ago.

Amid the sobs of his own family members as well as those of the late W. Myrle Trail, 27-yearold Melvin Bowman Jr. told Judge Angela Rosenberry Krom during sentencing proceedings he had begun counseling as a means of dealing with the aftermath of the June 10, 2010, fatal accident. He went on to say he was extremely sorry for what happened as well as for the Trail family’s loss.

“It’s something I’ll live with every day,” he said.

Charging documents filed in the case by Pennsylvania State Police Trooper James Lupey indicate Bowman was returning home after having finished a shift at Redland Brick in Williamsport, Md. His job that day had commenced at 5:30 a.m. and ended at 2 p.m. He reported having limited sleep the night before, an affidavit of probable cause maintained.

Police said Bowman was only one mile from his Thompson Township home on Herb Road when he fell asleep at the wheel of his northbound 2000 Chevrolet Lumina. The car drifted across the centerline of Thompson Road, where it collided head-on with an oncoming1990 Nissan truck operated by Trail, also of Needmore.

The 2:45 p.m. collision caused Bowman’s car to turn sideways and roll onto its roof. He only sustained a fractured right wrist and a cut to his head and was treated and released from Washington County Hospital. He was not wearing a seat belt.

Meanwhile, Trail, 68, who was also not using a seat belt and with no airbags in his vehicle, was pronounced dead at the scene of blunt force trauma by Fulton County Deputy Coroner Darrin Smith.

Trail’s daughter, Karen Souders informed the court her mother was not strong enough to speak on her own behalf during the June 28 sentencing proceedings. She was in court, however, and has been greatly impacted by the loss of her husband and soul mate.

Souders said in the days immediately following the accident she spent Father’s Day at the cemetery. Fortunately, Bowman is still able to see his father, she added.

Souders asked the court to consider some type of punishment, such as a jail sentence, otherwise the public will be given the appearance her father’s life was not valuable.

“We’re missing our rock, our anchor,” she said.

Troy Trail, Myrle Trail’s son, also took the opportunity to speak and shared having previously been in an accident involving a child. As a result, he felt he was the lone family member to initially exhibit any compassion for Bowman. Troy Trail said since his father’s death he learned there could have been other factors, aside from sleep deprivation, that could have caused the collision.

“We’ve lost someone very dear to us,” stated Troy Trail, who pointed out driving while tired may be like driving after having consumed 30 cans of beer.

Under questioning by Judge Krom, Fulton County District Attorney Travis Kendall said it was determined that a connection to the Internet from Bowman’s cellphone occurred in the minutes before to the accident. Whether it was sleep or a phone distraction, the end result of the crash was still the same, he noted. Kendall further said in the event the case had gone to jury trial, he would not have been able to carry the burden of proof that the cellphone issue was the underlying cause of the crash.

Judge Krom stated cases such as these are never easy, and nothing the court could do would bring back Myrle Trail to his loved ones. She said she was left with the feeling after reading the family’s letters and hearing their comments, they believed there was something more going on than falling asleep at the wheel.

However, with the commonwealth unable to prove the cellphone theory, the judge stated she was unable to consider that factor in handing down a sentence. She did, though, take into account Bowman’s excellent work history as well as his lack of a prior criminal record.

Bowman was escorted out of the courtroom by the county sheriff’s office, Krom ordered the young man to complete three years of intermediate punishment for homicide by vehicle. The sentence will begin with 30 days in Franklin County Prison, followed by eight months of house arrest and electronic monitoring. Bowman must also complete 150 hours of community service and relinquish his driver’s license to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Restitution in the amount of $9,359.20 will be paid to the Trail family to cover funeral and related expenses.

Krom concluded she deviated from the recommendation by the Fulton County Probation Office because she wanted Bowman to have an opportunity to realize the full effect of his actions. She further suggested he share his message with local youths and the community.

This case underscores the statistics. Driving while distracted or tired is every bit as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, said the judge.

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