A Plumstead man accused of causing the car crash that killed a 9-year-old Central Bucks student will face a third-degree murder charge when he goes on trial at the Bucks County courthouse in March.
District Judge Mark Douple on Wednesday held over all 11 charges filed by the district attorney's office against Drew Bodden, 38. After hours of testimony from police officers, eyewitnesses, and crash reconstruction experts, Bodden's defense attorney, Colin Jenei, argued only against the third-degree murder charge.
Jenei told the judge that part of the criteria for murder in the third degree is to show a "wickedness of disposition and evil of heart," standards that he felt the testimony did not support.
"The evidence shows acts comparable to a reckless juvenile," said Jenei, "not somebody with a hardness in his heart."
Assistant District Attorney Robert James countered that Bodden showed malice by having a conscious disregard of serious injury or death and social duty by ignoring the speed limits and attempting to race other cars on a busy roadway on the night before Thanksgiving, the busiest travel day of the year.
"A charge of murder in an auto crash is not particularly common. But then neither are the facts which our investigation have revealed about this horrific act," Bucks County District Attorney Dave Heckler said in December in announcing the unusual murder charge.
Douple ruled there was enough evidence to send the case to trial. Bodden's next court date is March 8.
Prosecutors say Bodden was driving his Ford Mustang Cobra more than 140 miles an hour north up the Rt. 611 Bypass around Doylestown on the night before Thanksgiving when he slammed into the back of a Honda CRV.
Suzanne Berry was at the wheel of that Honda. She was driving Holly from a gymnastics class in Warrington to their home in Plumstead and was in the left lane traveling 60 to 70 miles an hour when Bodden slammed into her, James has said.
The impact forced the Honda across the right lane, off the road and into the grassy area next to the Broad Street exit ramp. The Honda went airborne and rolled over before coming to rest on its wheels, facing east, according to court papers.
The Honda was so damaged that rescuers had to cut both Holly and her grandmother from the wreckage, James said. The vehicle is barely recognizable in photos of the crash scene.
The Mustang traveled another 900 feet up Rt. 611 before hitting a guardrail and coming to a halt in the grassy median.
Rescuers who raced to the scene found Holly unconscious and unresponsive in the back seat of the crushed Honda. A Bucks County Coroner's deputy pronounced her dead at the scene.
Bodden's passenger, his girlfriend, Christine Mokrynchuk, also was injured in the crash.
Berry nearly died - rescuers were able to resuscitate her at the scene and she was airlifted to the hospital. She sustained a traumatic brain injury and is undergoing rehabilitation.
Meanwhile, friends of the Berry family are moving ahead with a fundraiser on May 11 to support the family.
Dale Homnick, one of the organizers, said the first half of the event will be geared toward children and is a tribute to Holly, who was 9 years old and a student at Groveland Elementary when she died.
The second half of the event will be a more traditional beef-and-beer.
For more information, visit the Facebook page set up for the event.