Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Car salesman who killed.... Evo buyer started day with rum, weed

Car salesman who killed.... Evo buyer started day with rum, weed

SOURCE: Lancaster Online

A Landisville car salesman charged with killing a customer during a test-drive turned himself in Saturday.

Michael D. Hershey, 48, was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge David E. Brian of East Hempfield Township Saturday afternoon and sent to Lancaster County Prison, unable to post bail of $150,000, according to court records posted on Pennsylvania's Unified Judicial System's Web portal.

Messages left at the home and offices of Hershey's attorney, Janice Longer, were not returned Saturday.

Hershey was charged Thursday with homicide by vehicle, driving under the influence of a controlled substance, reckless endangerment and driving at an unsafe speed in the Dec. 30 death of Jon Christian "Chris" Jensen. Jensen and his son, Tyler, 21, were passengers in a Mitsubishi Lancer driven by Hershey at the time of the 5 p.m. wreck, which happened on South Colebrook Road in East Hempfield Township.

East Hempfield police said Hershey, a salesman at Imports of Lancaster County, East Petersburg, had taken the Jensens on a test drive when he told Tyler Jensen to pull over so he could show him "how it's done." Witnesses estimated Hershey was traveling as fast as 90 mph on the two-lane road when a truck pulled into his path and he swerved and hit an embankment, according to the affidavit filed in the case.

The car rolled several times, ejecting Hershey and the elder Jensen, who sustained severe head injuries and died at the scene.

A civil lawsuit in the case could be filed as early as this week, according to the Philadelphia attorney hired by Tyler Jensen.

Robert Mongeluzzi, of the firm Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky, said last week he was waiting until police concluded their investigation before proceeding with the civil suit.

In a statement e-mailed to reporters after the charges were filed, the Jensen family said, "While no words or acts can bring back our father, Jon Christian Jensen, our family deeply appreciates the efforts of the prosecutor's office. We also publicly are thankful to the people — most of them total strangers — who have expressed their heartfelt condolences to our family."

Earlier last week, Tyler Jensen had told the Philadelphia Daily News that he and his father had gone to Imports of Lancaster County because Chris Jensen was going to buy his son a sports car.

Tyler told the Daily News that he was driving when the three pulled out from the dealership in the Mitsubishi; but Hershey wanted to demonstrate how to "throw the car sideways" around corners, Tyler said. "Hershey instructed Jensen to pull off the road and switch seats with him," the Daily News reported.

Hershey then started "popping through the gears" Tyler told the newspaper: "We were flying, we were absolutely flying" just before the crash.

After the wreck Tyler Jensen — suffering from broken vertebrae in his neck, a separated shoulder and a concussion — went to look for his father; he found him bleeding profusely, almost unrecognizable, Jensen's attorney said.

Tyler attempted to give his father CPR but Chris Jensen had bitten his tongue in half and lost numerous teeth, and Tyler had trouble clearing his dad's airway. Chris Jensen died at the scene.

"I can't imagine something worse for someone to go through than to watch your father die," Mongeluzzi said. "To literally try to give him CPR but be unable to do it because of [Chris Jensen's] blood and teeth coming into your own mouth."

Tyler, a student at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., "has shown great courage in trying to stay in school and deal with an event as horrific as this," Mongeluzzi said. "In cases like this, the physical scars heal well before the emotional scars. It is a horror beyond imagination.

"When something like this happens, your sense of trust in other people is incredibly compromised," Mongeluzzi said.

Mongeluzzi said his research has turned up no other incidence of a salesman crashing while behind the wheel during a test-drive, resulting in the death of a customer.

James H. Thomas, of the Lancaster law firm Blakinger, Byler and Thomas and who represents Imports of Lancaster County, said his clients are "obviously really upset about the whole issue, they feel terribly for the family." The dealership is "cooperating both with their insurance company [which is conducting its own investigation] and the police."

According to the affidavit filed in the case, Hershey admitted to drinking Bacardi rum prior to the crash. His blood-alcohol level at the time of the accident was .06, below the legal limit of .08, said police. He also tested positive for marijuana.

Hershey was charged with drunken driving twice in 2002, according to court records. In August 1998 Hershey pleaded guilty to "exceeding the maximum speed limit established by 28 mph." In November 1998, he pleaded guilty to careless driving and following too closely.

Hershey also was charged with simple assault and harassment in 2002.

Asked Friday whether the auto dealership knew of Hershey's criminal record, attorney Thomas told the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal/New Era that "it is being considered a personnel matter, and I'm not at liberty to say anything further than that."

Auto salesmen and women in Pennsylvania must be licensed by the state Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs. The license application, Mongeluzzi noted, requires applicants to submit criminal record checks. Those who pleaded guilty to or were convicted of felony or misdemeanor offenses are required to submit copies of court documents, a letter from a probation officer providing current probationary status (if any), police reports and a detailed description, in the applicant's own words, of the circumstances surrounding the cases.

Such a background does not disqualify anyone from getting a sales license, though subsequent criminal convictions could result in disciplinary action or a license application being rejected.

Did Hershey reveal the information? Did the dealership know? The attorney said he did not know the answers.

"But we'll find out."

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