A man who loved speed was rocketing up the Rt. 611 Bypass in Doylestown at at least 142 miles an hour when he slammed his souped-up Mustang Cobra into another car on the night before Thanksgiving, the busiest travel day of the year.
That's what Bucks County prosecutors will try to prove when they prosecute that driver, Drew Bodden, 37, for third-degree murder for causing the death of 9-year-old Holly Huynh.
"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 Thursday during a press conference to announce the charges.
"That is the point of this case," Heckler said. "This was a volitional act, a choice by Mr. Bodden to drive at a speed that was beyond reckless."
Malice is the defining point that sets murder apart from manslaughter, Heckler said, contending that Bodden's actions showed "a complete indifference to human life."
Bodden, of Plumstead, was driving his Ford Mustang Cobra that night north up the Rt. 611 Bypass around Doylestown. He was in the left lane, speeding at 142 to 154 miles an hour, said Bob James, assistant district attorney in charge of the case.
Two other drivers on the road that night told police they saw Bodden driving fast and thought he might have been racing a black Cadillac, James said. The driver of that Cadillac told investigators he sped up to about 70 miles per hour to pass a car before moving into the right lane to get out of the way when he saw the Mustang bearing down on him, according to court papers filed Thursday.
Suzanne Berry was driving her granddaughter Holly from a gymnastics class in Warrington to their home in Plumstead, James said. She was in the left lane traveling 60 to 70 miles an hour when Bodden slammed into her Honda CRV, James said. A reconstruction of the crash scene estimated her speed to have ranged from 61 to 75 miles an hour, according to court papers.
"They were not stopped in the roadway," as some have speculated, James 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 displayed at the press conference.
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. She had been wearing her seatbelt.
Berry, who also had been wearing her seatbelt, was unconscious and barely breathing, trapped inside the driver's compartment of the Honda. Rescuers were able to resuscitate her and airlifted her to Temple University Hospital in "extremely critical" condition.
Rescuers also had to cut Bodden and his girlfriend, Christine Mokrynchuk, 43, out of the wreckage of their car, Heckler said. They were taken to Abington Memorial Hospital for treatment.
In addition to the murder charge in connection with Holly’s death, Bodden faces other charges, including two counts of aggravated assault by vehicle, James said.
One charge is for causing the injuries to Berry. The 55-year-old Plumstead woman remains hospitalized at Temple, where a hospital spokesman on Wednesday said she was in fair condition. Berry sustained a traumatic brain injury in the crash, James said, and is breathing with the help of a ventilator in the hospital's intensive care unit.
The second charge is for causing the injuries to Mokrynchuk, who sustained a broken ankle, wrist, sternum, ribs and a head injury. She had remained hospitalized until early this week, James said.
Toxicology tests showed that Bodden, who also was in the hospital until earlier this week, had no alcohol or drugs in his system that night, the prosecutor said.
"His judgement was not impaired one bit when he decided to drive his vehicle more than twice the speed limit on a very crowded highway," James said.
In an interview from his hospital bed, Bodden told investigators he "accelerated to at least 75 mph" and that the car in front of him "looked like it had stopped in the road without its lights on."
Investigators also interviewed Mokrynchuk in the hospital. She told them she and Bodden had left Outback Steakhouse, in Montgomeryville, and were on their way home that night.
Once they reached the 611 Bypass, she said Bodden started driving fast. She remembered passing the black Cadillac, she said, adding that Bodden "may have been traveling in excess of 100 mph prior to the crash," according to court papers.
Bodden turned himself in to police on Thursday morning, hobbling out of the Doylestown Township Police Department on a walker, bandages still evident from the broken wrist and broken leg he sustained in the crash.
He was arraigned in district court on Almshouse Road Thursday afternoon. District Justice Mark Douple set bail at $500,000 but released Bodden on his own recognizance after his attorney argued successfully that his client needs physical therapy and powerful painkillers.
Moving carefully down the sidewalk, Bodden and his attorney, Gavin Laboski, declined to comment further. A former Bucks County prosecutor, Laboski now practices law with the Doylestown firm of Benner and Wild.
The murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, and the two counts of aggravated assault by vehicle together carry 14 years, prosecutors said, meaning Bodden could face 54 years in prison if convicted of all three counts.
He also has been charged with homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, reckless driving, speeding, and three counts of recklessly endangering another person.
Investigators already have begun painting a portrait of Bodden as a man obsessed with fast cars.
Before it was disabled, Bodden's Facebook page included photos of himself behind the wheel, smoke emanating from spinning tires. Investigators say he has been a member of online forums dedicated to high-performance Ford vehicles, where he has posted about driving fast.
In real life, he has a string of traffic violations. In 2007, he pleaded guilty to driving without a licence and exceeding the speed limit by more than 10 miles an hour, according to court records.
James said Bodden had added thousands of dollars worth of aftermarket parts designed to enhance the engine's horsepower and make his car go faster.
According to court papers, crash scene investigators found the crumpled Mustang's speedometer "resting at just under 160 mph."
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