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Driver Charged with Homicide, DUI in Fatal Crash

Hatboro-Horsham 2010 graduates Edward Coombs and Robert Nagel died in the Aug. 6 crash.

The driver of an  that claimed the lives of two 2010 Hatboro-Horsham graduates faces a minimum six years behind bars.

Connor James McNicholas, 19, of Bryant Court in Ambler, has been arrested and charged with two counts of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence of alcohol. The 1:19 a.m. crash on Aug. 6 claimed the lives of and , both 19, of Horsham.

Authorities said McNicholas' blood alcohol level measured .117 at the time of the crash. An analysis at Abington Memorial Hospital, where McNicholas and two other passengers were transported for minor injuries, shows a range between .109 and .134, according to court documents.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said during a press conference Wednesday that McNicholas' blood alcohol level was more than five times the legal limit of .02 for a 19-year-old. 

Vetri Ferman said a crash reconstruction determined that McNicholas was driving his 2007 Honda Civic between 97 and 103 miles per hour on the 25-mile-per-hour section of Witmer Road in Horsham when he lost control of the vehicle, struck a curb and drove 405 feet onto a homeowner’s Wade Avenue property. 

McNicholas has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

District Judge Paul Leo, who arraigned McNicholas Wednesday afternoon, set bail at $500,000, representing $250,000 for each victim. McNicholas’ attorney, Peter Scuderi, said several hours after the arraignment that McNicholas' family was trying to post bail. 

Scuderi had argued that the bail amount was too high because his client’s BAC was “not incredibly high.” Scuderi added that McNicholas’ parents, who were in court Wednesday, “are good people.”

Scuderi said McNicholas, a Temple University student and caddy at , has been seeing a psychiatrist and is said to be a “suicide risk.”

“He had a lethal weapon,” Leo responded. “He took two lives.”

McNicholas, clad in a black blazer, khaki pants and loafers, hung his head as he was led from the Horsham police car into the Hatboro court building. McNicholas, as well as his parents, declined comment.

In court, McNicholas answered the judge’s questions so softly that his attorney had to relay his responses.

If convicted, Vetri Ferman said McNicholas faces a “three-year mandatory minimum” for each of the two homicide by vehicle charges. He has also been charged with reckless driving, careless driving, two counts of speeding, as well as a half dozen other charges, according to court documents.

Scuderi said McNicholas is a “top student” at Temple and a “top player” on the golf team. The crash and the events leading up to it were out of character for him, Scuderi said.

“He’s a good kid,” Scuderi said.

Vetri Ferman said that aside from McNicholas, none of the passengers in the vehicle were wearing seatbelts. Nagel, who was riding in the front seat, and Coombs, a passenger in the rear middle of the car, died from head injuries sustained in the crash, according to their autopsies.

The two other passengers who survived the crash, Timothy Kurpiel, 19, of Horsham, and Darryl Neville Jr., of Darby, do not face charges, Vetri Ferman said, adding that she did not have their blood alchol levels.

She did say, however, that all of the teens were believed to have been drinking. Several alcoholic beverage containers were found in the car, Vetri Ferman said.

“This is not a case where the adults provided,” Vetri Ferman said of the home where the teens were said to have been drinking. “Parents at that residence were home sleeping.”

Horsham Police Chief Robert Ruxton said the home is less than two miles away from the site of the crash, which happened near Norristown Road.

Vetri Ferman said adults have not been identified as being responsible for providing the alcohol.

“They snuck it from places,” Vetri Ferman said of McNicholas and his four passengers. “Adults around them didn’t know.”

Vetri Ferman said that because Coombs had been a summer intern at the district attorney’s office, her office has turned the case over to Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly. Deputy Attorney General Marc Costanzo would be prosecuting the case, she said. 

Mark August 18, 2011 at 10:16 PM
@Mom2three. Alcohol impairs judgment. Maybe you should 'dial back' your judgments, too. Peace....
sg123 August 18, 2011 at 10:58 PM
there is initial shock, i would say connor is in shock now and the night that changed lives forever and has no idea what he may or may not have said. there are no answers here. the outcome will not please everyone. this is such a tragic accident for all involved. again i appoligize to the families, unfortunately everyone has opinions and thoughts that they want to express. but please people dont be so quick to judge. remember these boys grew together, played together, laughed and loved together, and in reality would not knowingly, willing or intentionally hurt each other, and would probably defend each other if someone else tried to hurt any of them. try putting yourself in these families shoes for just a minute. what would you do? what would you want to happen? what if this happened to my family? robert and eddie please rest in peace, watch over and guide your family and friends thru the hardest most toughest time of their lives. connor you are living within your own personal hell, please remember you are loved by your family and friends and they are all here for you to lean on and will help you thur this. it dosnt matter if you are from the wealthiest of families or the less then average of families this was a tragic tragic accident and it could happen to any one of us. no one is invinsible. no one is imortal. we all take a risk every time we get in our cars. l every family involved no one wanted anyone to get hurt and i believe no one wants anyone else to get hurt
sg123 August 18, 2011 at 11:17 PM
please give these families the pease and respect which they all deserve while enduring such grief
Suzie August 19, 2011 at 12:10 AM
Thank you sg123 and Mark. What has happened to this community that I'm so proud to be a part of? A community that sticks together through kindness, concern and always so very supportive? Please, just take a moment to pause before finger pointing or name calling when you're ready to click submit. Please reread your comments and try to word them a bit kinder. Is this really what all of these families or Connor are deserving of during their pain and suffering at this time? I know it isn't. The real matter is that these families so shattered, broken and full of grief need love, respect and support. Instead of pushing and pulling, lets stand together offering that love, respect and support for ALL persons involved in this sad tragedy. My prayers and concern continue for all of these heart broken families. <3 ~Suzie
Living Life August 19, 2011 at 01:06 AM
Very well said Suzie!
Suzie August 19, 2011 at 01:23 AM
@Living Life Thank you so kindly. <3 ~Suzie
Lavender Green August 19, 2011 at 01:32 PM
This has become a fantastic topic of conversation for a lot of people, while everyone has opinions on what should or should not be done, the bottom line is everyone who new or knows these individuals and their families lives will be changed forever. Everyone of them shall pay in one way or another, whether it be criminally, morally or emotionally. But the effects will linger. Bottom line is FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS DRIVE DRUNK! keep that in mind next time your ready to either get behind the wheel or get in with someone or allow them to drive off, no one ever does it on purpose, everyone thinks it wont happen to them, yes it was a huge mistake, but learn not to make some mistakes that are unfixable. This is for everyone, parents, kids, friends, acquaintances and so on. Step up next time the life you are saving is worth it!
Mark August 20, 2011 at 10:58 PM
@editor. Perhaps you could ask bloggers to not post the same entry multiple times.
just a Granny August 21, 2011 at 05:32 PM
I don't live in your town but have been following this tragic story. Seems that putting Connor in prison for 6 years will not benefit anyone. I think more fitting would be for him to be on probation for 6 years, do community service by speaking to teens about drunk driving and having his driver's license taken away for 6 years. He will live with the quilt for the rest of his life.
Bill Godshall August 22, 2011 at 01:42 AM
6 years of confinement for two lifetimes,seems the scales of justice didn't quite balance.
BR August 22, 2011 at 06:14 PM
I agree with BOB and just a nana. Connor in jail for 6 years does not benifit him at all.. you see the kid, he is not built for prison at all and I don't mean that in a stuck up way either. Connor has many dreams with golf and he could one day be the next tiger woods. I have benifited from seeing connor play many times and man does he put his all into every game. People may think Rob and Ed had dreams too.. and they did.. now connor can put his all into his sport because of them. Connor did not intend to do this to his bestfriends and for those who know connor and his parents support connor and the ones that are writing mean things and saying he deserves to be in jail.. you do not know him so please stop commenting. Do not be afraid to send letters or cards to the parents.. they need your support even from people who do not know them. Thanks
hatboro dad August 22, 2011 at 07:26 PM
BR makes no sense at all. Sounds like he wants to reward Connor, who should have had the guts to plead guilty
Mark August 22, 2011 at 08:52 PM
For those resorting to ‘name calling,’ judgment and sarcasm: Save the planet - evolve.
Suzie August 22, 2011 at 09:56 PM
@Bob - since you addressed me by name I pray for Connor and his family; that will never stop. Too, From the core of my heart I pray Connor will change his plea, stand tall and take responsibility for his own actions on that night. IF he gets just 6 years for taking the life of two young men, he sould consider himself lucky. Still, I pray for each and every victim involved in that tragedy! Matt Maher (That Guy) a drunk driver, killed 1 innocent man and got 5 1/2 years and is still doing time. These are my prayers, my thoughts and none are forced to agree with me. ~Suzie If you have not watched Matt Maher's video, please do so. http://themattmaherstory.com/
sg123 August 22, 2011 at 11:13 PM
i dont know who any of you are or how old any of you are but for the love of christ, do you think that connor is out and about playing golf, hanging out, sitting at the pool working on his tan, vacationing, living life as if nothing has happened? like for real? this kid is living pure hell right now. as are robert and eddie's families. they were his friends, he too lost his friends. not on purpose, but by accident. lets remember it was an accident and yes he may have been driving but we all know it could have been any one of those boys. he just happened to be the one with the car that night. i am not taking any respect away from eddie, robert or their families, but i dont believe nor do i think that eddie or roberts families believe any of what most of your rediculous comments are implying. yes everyone has an opinion and everyone is entitled to theres. do you think that any of the envolved families need any of this right now??
sg123 August 23, 2011 at 12:35 AM
what the hell is the matter with you people. there are families grieving on so many different levels here. please refrain from your rude ignorant incosiderate ruthless disrepectful just plain stupid comments. dont dare judge any person until you walk a mile in their shoes. you are talking about a human being, someones son, brother, cousin, nephew, uncle, and friend. if anyone knows, connor knows that he will pay for his choice, his decision, his mistake everyday of his life. i truly believe what has happened is all he thinks of, if he sleeps at all, all he has is nightmares, he gets it for god sake. he gets it. he is very well aware as is his family, that his life as well as everyone involved lives have been changed and altered forever.
hatboro dad August 23, 2011 at 01:51 PM
I know for a fact that Ed's and Rob's families feel that this is tragic, but that if Connor had any respect for them he would have pleaded guilty
BR August 23, 2011 at 03:13 PM
hatboro dad: since your name says "dad", think about your son or daughter in prison for 6 years away from you and your family. Don't give me the bullshit of he should live up to his actions. Just think.
Patrick August 23, 2011 at 03:16 PM
@Hatboro Dad - you don't volunteer to spend a minimum of 6 years behind bars out of respect for someone's families. I'm sure Connor has the greatest respect for the two victims' families, and wishes every second of every day that he could take back what he did. Pleading not guilty inevitably leads to some charges being dropped, and less time for Connor - who seems like a good kid other than this horrible mistake - to be incarcerated with murderers, rapists, and other people who actually need to be in prison to be kept off the streets. Just because he pleaded guilty, it doesn't mean he thinks that he's innocent.
hatboro dad August 23, 2011 at 03:26 PM
no you don't volunteer for 6 years in prison. Your lawyer tells the DA you will plead guilty to a deal. That's how charges get dropped. Not by pleading not guilty and making the DA prepare fore trial.
hatboro dad August 23, 2011 at 03:30 PM
yeah, i am thinking, and thinking his best way out of this is to ask the DA if there is a plea deal. That is living up to his actions. And, when my kid was in trouble with the law for a stupid decision, we did just that (fewer legal bills, shorter time to resolution). So don't lecture me. BTW, tell me how long Ed and Rob will be away from their families? Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.
Patrick August 23, 2011 at 03:35 PM
Many times, a not guilty plea can precede a plea deal. The not guilty plea simply means that a trial will be set. Although the circumstances are wildly different and I am not trying to compare the seriousness of the two crimes, it is similar to a person who pleads not guilty to a speeding ticket only to go into court and agree to plead guilty for less points.
Patrick August 23, 2011 at 03:45 PM
One thing that really upsets me about all of this is that I feel people are failing to realize that each one of these kids made a conscious decision to drink and get in the car with a friend who was drinking. Legally, the only one who bears the burden of the punishment will be Connor. It is very sad that two boys lost their lives in this, but it's also very sad how quick people are to crucify the driver when any of these kids probably would have driven that night if it was their car that they took to their friend's house. Every one of these boys is both a culprit and a victim. Connor pulled the trigger, but they all helped him hold the gun, and none of their lives will ever be the same for it. Bad things happen
hatboro dad August 23, 2011 at 04:29 PM
good point Patrick. You are absolutely correct. I for one will not comment any more on this
Barbara Otto August 24, 2011 at 01:56 PM
Throughout children's lives their sent mixed messages about alcohol. It's ok for parents to drink (but for the grace of God...) They don't smoke in front of kids because it's unhealthy, good choice, but alcohol is consumed while the game is on so that's fine? After the little league win, out to the local "pizza" shop to celebrate and the adults have a beer. Birthday parties and they have a glass of cheer of the month and think the kids are unaware, WAKE UP! Children learn what they live. These are kids ( though 19 yrs.old) I vote HOUSE ARREST FOR ALL INVOLVED but parents, examine your conscience, you are all to blame.
Betty Ann August 25, 2011 at 10:11 PM
Thank you SG123 and Patrick! You both speak intelligently and with maturity. You said what I have been feeling and wanting to say myself. I try not to judge people as that is not for me to do nor will it help. Connor serving time in prison will not help anyone and according to articles written on drunk driving will not prevent further "drunk drivers". I have no answers but if any of you bloggers want to help these tragically hurt families please stop being so cruel in what you say. Betty Ann
Coombs53 August 26, 2011 at 11:16 PM
This will be my one and only post. If you're going to Pray, then Pray but people should watch what they say. Stay off the blogs and go educate someone. This is even for the ones who has all the answers.
Citizen Shell September 02, 2011 at 03:28 AM
I was under the impression that if you do the crime, you were to do the time. PERIOD.
sg123 September 02, 2011 at 09:29 PM
@bob, i think you may need a hobby or something. it seems you have an awful lot of time on your hands. that is all you seem to be dwelling and or harping on, the fact that connor has a sport that he is good and has excelled in it. it almost seems as though you are jealous. as for you comment about "him letting families beg" please dont disrespect the families like that. that is nothing short of ignorant and uncalled for. did anyone knock on your door for money? did anyone ask you for anything? none of the families asked anyone for money. any monetary donations were completely and strickly voluntary. maybe you should get your facts correct and straight before making comments that are so ignorant and disrepectful. the boys families and friends are living and trying to deal with what happened. this is in the courts hands and it does not matter what you or i or anyone else has to say. there will be a trail, what happens there is up to a jury (if there is one). the families dont have the answers i dont have the answers and you surely dont have the answers or even a clue. there are no answers. whatever the outcome. so my advise to you is to get a grip, stop with the judgement until you walk a mile in any of their shoes, and find something else to bitch about because there are plenty of things going on to comment about. please give these families the peace and respect in which they deserve.
Kerry November 01, 2011 at 08:28 AM
To all the people praying for Connor and his family and showing Connor support: are you f***ing kidding me? He is a GROWN man, and what the hell does him being good at golf have to do with anything? He KILLED two innocent young men with his irresponsible, reckless, drunken behavior, and he deserves to rot in prison. There is absolutely no excuse for him getting behind the wheel of that car and putting the lives of four other people in danger because he thought it was cool to take a joyride down Witmer rd. at 99 m.p.h.

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