Man charged with vehicular homicide pleads guilty

The trial for a tractor-trailer driver charged with hitting and killing a man changing a flat tire in 2015 was halted by a guilty plea hearing in Lycoming County Court.

Charles Eugene Mitchell, 44, of 1415 Turbot Ave., Delaware Township, was set to stand trial Monday and today. He was facing charges of vehicular homicide, voluntary manslaughter and recklessly endangering another person. By pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and a string of attached summary offenses, he will now proceed to sentencing on April 30, according to court records.

Police said Mitchell had been awake for more than 30 hours by about 2:40 p.m. on May 22, 2015.

While driving south on Route 15 near the Clinton-Brady township line, he crossed onto the shoulder and struck a horse trailer, a pickup truck and then 70-year-old Willis A. Foley. Foley, of Camden, South Carolina, who was in the shoulder changing a tire, police said.

A passenger of Foley’s, William Leonard, had to dive out of the way as Mitchell’s truck approached, police said.

He was injured when the horse trailer was pushed on top of him during the impact of the tractor-trailer hitting it. Details on Leonard and his injuries were not specified in the affidavit.

Mitchell claimed he was run off the road by a red SUV, but police said his account was inconsistent with multiple witness statements.

After obtaining a search warrant, police viewed cellphone records and confirmed that Mitchell likely was awake about 30 hours and 44 minutes before the crash.

During that period, Mitchell received 364 phone calls totaling 27 hours and 36 minutes.

“Extensive use of his cellular devises likely created a significant distraction and hazard,” the affidavit said.

Police also said that Mitchell submitted false entries in his log book.

In addition to the manslaughter charge, he pleaded guilty to seven summary offenses for falsifying his log book and also a charge of operating a cellphone while driving.