April 29–Although her lawyer claimed the prosecution hadn’t fully made its case, a woman accused of being high on PCP when she caused a crash that killed a Harrisburg firefighter was ordered Friday afternoon to be tried in Dauphin County Court.
District Judge David O’Leary made that call at the end of a preliminary hearing for Khanyae Kendall, who faces an array of charges, including homicide by vehicle while DUI, for the March 10 collision that mortally injured Lt. Dennis DeVoe.
The hearing for the 18-year-old Kendall was attended by a contingent of Harrisburg firefighters and by DeVoe’s family members. DeVoe’s widow, Amy, was among them. She wept during much of the 45-minute proceeding in a hearing room at the county prison.
Investigators claim Kendall was intoxicated when she ran a stop sign in a stolen car and broadsided DeVoe’s car at 14th and Walnut streets. She then fled the accident scene. The crash occurred as DeVoe was on his way to what turned out to be a fatal house fire.
First Assistant District Attorney Fran Chardo called just two witnesses, both city police officers, during Friday’s hearing.
Officer Brandon Yeager said he encountered Kendall at Harrisburg Hospital about an hour after the crash. A friend had dropped her off. She reeked of gasoline, Yeager said.
Kendall was restless, had glassy eyes and speech patterns that indicated intoxication, the officer said. He said she failed field sobriety testing.
When he asked about an abrasion on her arm, Kendall told him she fell down some stairs, Yeager said. The officer testified the injury looked like a wound caused by the deployment of a car’s air bag.
Yeager said Kendall also denied being at the crash scene and claimed someone had doused her with gas. Then at one point she said, “Did they tell you I was in a crash?” the officer said.
He said Kendall, who didn’t have a driver’s license, told him “a vehicle that was coming toward her just hit her.”
“She asked me how (the other driver) was. She stated that he was still breathing when she left,” Yeager said.
DeVoe died in Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center hours after the crash.
When pressed by defense attorney Illon Fish, Yeager said investigators have no way of knowing for sure if Kendall was intoxicated at the time of the 8:17 p.m. accident. Fish asked if some of the cognitive issues Kendall displayed when tested at the hospital could have been caused by a head injury. “They could be,” Yeager replied.
Officer Brandon Braughler testified about an incident when he took a hair sample from Kendall last week for drug testing. He said she spontaneously told him, “I don’t know why you keep testing my hair when I already told you guys I was on PCP.”
The results of the hair test haven’t yet been received, he said.
Braughler also described the accident scene. He said investigators determined that Kendall ran a stop sign at the intersection and struck DeVoe’s car on the passenger side. The black box on her car, a stolen Hyundai Elantra, showed she was going 49 mph in the 25 mph zone at impact, he said.
There is at least one eye witness to the collision, Braughler said.
Under cross-examination by Fish, Braughler said investigators were unable to retrieve data from the black box in DeVoe’s Toyota Corolla.
When Braughler left the witness stand, Fish argued that the homicide by vehicle while DUI and DUI counts against Kendall should be dismissed because investigators can’t prove she was high when she hit DeVoe’s car. “We don’t know if she self-medicated afterwards,” he said.
O’Leary rejected that contention. Under Fish’s scenario, “no one would ever be convicted of driving under the influence of PCP,” the judge said.
Chardo said the case is ripe for trial. “We believe a reasonable jury could infer that she left that scene because she was intoxicated,” he said.
Kendall remains in prison pending trial.
By Matt Miller, The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa.
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