Even after fatal crash, defendant continued to get high and drive

Last updated: October 26. 2013 12:38AM - 2550 Views
By - rdupuis@timesleader.com

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WILKES-BARRE — Matthew James Perkins said little Friday morning as he admitted to the Aug. 7, 2012, crash that left cyclist Richard Stadts mortally injured.

“Yes, sir” and “no, sir” were his only utterances, while members of Stadt’s family sat in the back of a courtroom in the Penn Place building sobbing quietly as a lengthy catalogue of Perkins’ misdeeds was read aloud by prosecutors.

Perkins pleaded guilty Friday morning to involuntary manslaughter and accidents involving death in the Stadts case — along with five separate incidents in which Perkins drove while under the influence of drugs and was caught in a city complex in possession of heroin.

All told, his crimes could cost the Hunlock Township man as much as 15 years, six months in prison.

“He does have a substance-abuse problem,” Luzerne County Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Reimiller said to reporters following Perkins’ appearance before Judge Richard M. Hughes III on Friday.

Stadts, 73, was riding a bicycle on Route 11 in Plymouth Township when he was struck by a 2007 Saab SUV driven by Perkins. He died at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township the next day.

Perkins did not stop. He drove away and returned to his residence, telling his grandmother he may have struck a person, according to a criminal complaint.

Perkins told state police he consumed a shot of liquor and ran into the woods where, he told state police, he did heroin before returning to his grandmother’s house, the complaint says.

A witness wrote down the license plate number on the Saab, state police said.

“There was a lot of work that went into the investigation,” Reimiller said.

Even as investigators were working to piece together the scene — a lengthy process that was aided by eyewitness accounts — Perkins continued to get high and drive:

• In another August 2012 traffic incident, he was stopped by police and later found to have elements of morphine and THC, a chemical component of marijuana, in his system. He pleaded guilty to driving under the influence.

• In January of this year, he was found slumped over the wheel of a vehicle in Plymouth Township. He pleaded guilty to DUI.

• In February of this year, police found him at the Interfaith Heights apartment complex in possession of heroin. He pleaded guilty to possession of heroin.

• Later in February, police again found him slumped over the wheel of a vehicle, in Dallas Borough, in a black Saab with front-end damage. He pleaded guilty to possession of heroin.

• The earliest of six cases to which Perkins admitted guilt on Friday involved a May 2012 crash in Plains Township, in which he again pleaded to DUI.

Members of Stadts’s family wore t-shirts emblazoned with a bicycle and his name, together with the moniker “Mayor of West Nanticoke,” in memory of the uncle and brother they loved, who was a familiar sight cycling around the area.

They were told they will have a chance to speak when Perkins returns to court for sentencing at 9 a.m. Dec. 20.

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