Judge dismisses most charges in Route 22 traffic fatality
BLAIRSVILLE — Most charges have been dismissed against a Blairsville man involved in a car accident that killed a Westmoreland County motorcyclist in July on Route 22, prompting outcry from the deceased’s family that justice has not been served.
District Judge Jennifer Rega, at a preliminary hearing Wednesday, dismissed three charges against Matthew Reed II, 25, of Blairsville. Those included a felony count of homicide by vehicle and two misdemeanor counts, one each of involuntary manslaughter and recklessly endangering another person.
Rega did not believe prosecutors had evidence to support the charges, according to Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty.
Reed pleaded guilty to two summary traffic charges at the hearing — one regarding failure to obey a stop sign and another for careless driving. He paid court costs and fines totaling about $187.
A summary charge of reckless driving was withdrawn.
According to state police, Reed pulled onto Route 22 in Burrell Township into the path of a motorcycle driven by Brad Heming, 54, of Fairfield Township, around 7:15 p.m. July 11 at the intersection of Old Farm Road. His vehicle collided with Heming on Route 22, hitting the motorcyclist with the driver’s side of the car.
Heming, who was wearing a helmet, suffered blunt force trauma to the head and neck. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Reed was not injured.
Rega said she did not feel that evidence in the case showed gross negligence, the standard by which homicide by vehicle is determined, according to Dougherty.
“We thought the evidence supported (the charge),” he said. “It’s a four-lane divided highway and based on that we felt that he acted grossly negligent by running a stop sign on that road.
“We’re disappointed, but we respect her decision and we’re moving on.”
Reed’s defense attorney, Brian Manchester, praised Rega’s decision.
“The judge followed the law today,” he said. “This was a tragic car accident in which a man lost his life and my client feels terrible about that. But it was nothing more than a traffic accident that resulted in someone’s death. It was not criminal or intentional.”
Reed is saddened by the accident and, to this day, doesn’t drive much, the Bellefonte-based attorney said.
According to Manchester, surveillance video evidence from a truck company not far from the crash scene shows what happened.
“He feels very bad for the family,” Manchester said. “He just never saw the gentleman until it was too late.”
A criminal complaint filed by state police said that after stopping behind another vehicle at the intersection, Reed’s Dodge Dart failed to stop at the stop sign again and proceeded into the path of Heming, who was traveling east on Route 22 in the right lane of the four-lane highway.
Heming, police said, was unable to stop his Honda VTC 600 and crashed into Reed’s car.
A criminal complaint written by Trooper Anthony D. Baum Jr. claims Reed “did recklessly cause the death of Brad Heming while engaged in a violation of the law of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania applying to the operation or use of a vehicle” by failing to stop at a stop sign.
Brad Heming’s son, Nick, of Fairfield Township, said his family was “pretty much in shock and awe” after the preliminary hearing.
“We went in, not with a ‘we will win’ attitude, but thinking justice would be done,” he said. “We couldn’t believe that the judge would let something like this go unpunished.”
He and his mother, Toni, and a brother, Adam, attended the preliminary hearing. His mother excused herself from the courtroom when the video surveillance evidence was presented.
“Within the law, there are some things that you have to follow, but still, this man killed another man,” Nick Heming said. “How can that go unpunished? I’m not a lawyer, I work in emergency services, but shouldn’t there be more to this case than a traffic violation?”
He works for Laurel Valley Ambulance Service, out of New Florence, and is also a part-time/casual employee with Citizens’ Ambulance Service.
He said his family is in the process of filing a civil lawsuit against Reed.
Though “still hurting, obviously,” the Hemings are sticking together and doing the best they can, he said.
“We’re just a real big family and we’re real close,” he said. “We’re not a family who is out for anything. We just wanted justice, and feel we were failed in this instance.”