The families, friends – and even the prosecutor seeking justice – came to Hatboro’s district court Monday afternoon ready to hear details of the evening that would claim the lives of 2010 Hatboro-Horsham High School graduates Edward Coombs and Robert Nagel.
But, the 20-year-old friend of Coombs and Nagel, Connor McNicholas, the driver who authorities said had a blood alcohol level more than five times the legal limit following the Aug. 6 high speed crash in Horsham, signed a waiver eliminating the need for a preliminary hearing.
Prosecutor Tony Forray, senior deputy attorney general, said Monday’s waiver simply meant that McNicholas chose “not to contest the charges.”
McNicholas’ attorney, Peter Scuderi, said afterward, “We don’t want to put all the families through what happened that day.”
“It was a tragedy,” Scuderi said. “And we don’t want to relive it.”
McNicholas, sporting a yellow “Livestrong” bracelet, khaki pants and a dark blazer Monday, looked virtually the same as he did the day of his Aug. 17 arraignment, with one exception: He did not arrive or depart court in handcuffs as he had during his first court appearance, prior to posting $500,000 bail.
The parents and sister of Edward Coombs were in attendance Monday, as was Robert Nagel’s mother and brother.
Coombs’ father, Eric, a member of the Hatboro-Horsham School board, declined comment following the brief court session. “I’m just going to let the system run its course,” he told Patch.
If convicted of the two homicide by vehicle charges, McNicholas faces a mandatory six years behind bars. The Horsham teen, a fellow 2010 Hatboro-Horsham grad, also faces additional charges related to the crash.
While meeting informally with the victims’ families Monday, Forray said McNicholas took actions that led to “terribly tragic results.”
“No good is going to come out of this case,” Forray said, noting the loss of two lives.
During his arraignment in August, McNicholas entered a not guilty plea. On Monday, Scuderi said McNicholas intended to continue with that plea, which would mean the case would likely go to trial.
When asked what the difference would be with having a preliminary hearing that would essentially reopen painful wounds versus a trial that could do the same thing, Scuderi told Patch that he recognized that the victims' loved ones were going through the "healing process right now" and that depending on the "nature of the testimony" a trial may not be as difficult, from an emotional standpoint.
Scuderi said McNicholas has resumed his studies at Temple University and is “trying to go on with his life.”