What happened in the moments leading up to the death of Alicia Nicholson on Feb. 6, 2016, in Monroe Township?
That is a question a jury must decide this week.
As Nicholson stopped at the stop sign on West Lisburn Road at the intersection of Boiling Springs Road and began to move her vehicle forward, “it was Alicia’s last moments on this planet,” Cumberland County Senior Assistant District Attorney John Dailey said Tuesday at the Cumberland County Courthouse.
A vehicle driven by Andrea Holly Lenk, 33, of Shiremanstown, struck Nicholson’s vehicle broadside shortly after it entered the intersection around 10:40 a.m. Nicholson was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Pennsylvania State Police.
Lenk is now on trial, facing charges of felony homicide by vehicle, misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter and multiple summary traffic violations including speeding and texting while driving.
For the prosecution, the answer to what happened is simple: Lenk was texting while driving, causing her to run the stop sign on Boiling Springs Road and hit Nicholson’s vehicle at roughly 51 miles per hour, Dailey said.
“The defendant did not brake and did not take evasive action,” Dailey said. “The first time she knew of Alicia’s car was when she struck it.”
But the defense has a different story.
Neither side has contested that Lenk ran the stop sign and struck Nicholson’s vehicle.
In an audio recording of an interview with police shortly after the crash that was played in court Tuesday, Lenk told police she was not using her phone, but looked down at her radio, causing her to miss the stop sign.
“Accidents do happen, even tragic ones,” defense attorney Stephanie Cesare said Tuesday.
Cesare said the crash on Feb. 6, 2016, was an accident that ended “the life of one and forever changed the life of another.” However, she continued, “not all accidents that involve a death are a crime.”
Cellphone records indicate Lenk sent and received text messages in the minutes leading up to the crash, with the last text message being received around 10:38 a.m., according to Dailey.
Much of Tuesday’s testimony, however, revolved around understanding what happened around that minute and even seconds before impact.
“There is no evidence to support that (Lenk) was texting at that minute,” Cesare said.
Now-retired Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Gary Mainzer, a crash re-constructionist at the time of the crash, said data from Lenk’s vehicle indicated she was traveling approximately 50 to 52 miles per hour at the time of the crash and did not apply her brakes before impact.
The speed limit on Boiling Springs Road is 45 miles per hour.
“Some may say this was just a tragic accident,” Dailey said. “No … this was a tragic choice made by the defendant. Our choices have consequences.”
Lenk’s trial is expected to continue Wednesday with Lenk likely taking the stand.
Gov. Tom Wolf has signed a measure to expand casino-style gambling in Pennsylvania — already the nation’s No. 2 commercial casino state — after lawmakers approved it last week in a bid to help the state government plug its biggest cash shortfall since the recession.
Casino license fees and taxes on gambling losses will go to the state’s main bank account, property tax rebates and local government treasuries and projects. Here is a look at some of the elements:
Pennsylvania’s 10 larger casinos can bid on a satellite casino license allowing up to 750 slot machines and 30 table games at a facility that isn’t within 25 miles of another casino. Certain counties are also off-limits. Bidding starts at $7.5 million, with a table games certificate costing an extra $2.5 million. A municipality could choose to prohibit such an establishment inside its borders.
Qualifying truck stops can operate up to five slot machine-style machines called video gambling terminals. Counties that host a casino can prohibit the machines inside its borders.
Licensed casinos, both in Pennsylvania and potentially beyond, can apply to operate casino-style gambling on websites and mobile applications to people in Pennsylvania. A license fee of $10 million allows a casino to operate poker, table games and slot machine-style games online. Just three states — New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada — allow online casino gambling.
The Pennsylvania Lottery can offer keno and feature online games, including its existing games, instant tickets and raffle games. The proceeds go into the Lottery Fund, which subsidizes programs for the elderly. The lottery is prohibited from operating casino-style games online, such as poker, roulette, slot machines and blackjack. Four states — Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky and Michigan — allow online lottery play, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Casinos are required again to pay millions of dollars annually to their host communities, reinstating a mandate struck down by the state Supreme Court last year because it treated casinos differently. The requirement had meant about $140 million that Pennsylvania’s casinos pay annually to local government budgets, institutions and projects in Philadelphia and 11 counties.
Casinos can seek approval to operate an interactive gambling parlor at an international or regional airport in Pennsylvania, with an agreement from the airport authority. The machines would be accessible only to ticketed passengers. Eligible airports are: Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Erie; Wilkes-Barre/Scranton; Lehigh Valley; Harrisburg; Arnold Palmer Regional Airport; and University Park Airport in State College.
Daily fantasy sports betting in Pennsylvania becomes regulated and taxed in Pennsylvania. Fantasy sports operators must verify that players are at least 18.
Casinos can apply to offer sports betting at the casino or online, should it become legal under federal law or under a federal court ruling. A license would cost $10 million.
Valley Forge Casino in suburban Philadelphia and Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin in southwestern Pennsylvania can pay fees to add slot machines and table games and to allow gambling by people who aren’t taking part in other amenities there.
A 2004 provision limiting ownership of casinos to no more than one controlling stake in one casino is repealed. That could end a lawsuit that has held up construction of the Live! Hotel & Casino in Philadelphia for nearly three years.
Source: Pennsylvania House and Senate Republicans.
Big Spring Girl Scout Troop 10510 is making Christmas a little more joyful for kids in the Newville area.
Now in its second year, the troop’s Collecting Cuz We Care campaign provides an assortment of gifts to middle and high school students in the Big Spring School District.
Troop leader Becky Kellert said the program is similar to one that collects gifts for underprivileged elementary school students.
“In Newville, we have a program called the Star Tree program for elementary age children in the Big Spring School District,” she said. “But we don’t have anything for the middle and high school kids, so we’re trying to change that. … Even though they’re teenagers, they’re still kids, and they should have a Christmas too.”
Last year, the troop collected items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, hats and gloves. They also filled Christmas stockings with things like calendars, coloring books and colored pencils.
This year, the troop has plans to expand.
“We’re trying to get bigger,” she said. “We want to also get things that teenage kids would like to have — makeup, puzzles, gift cards, books, clothing.”
The gifts are all wrapped and taken to the middle and high schools, where counselors identify students who would benefit most.
“Everything remains confidential,” Kellert said. “We work with the school district, and the counselors pass everything out.”
Last year, gifts were distributed to 22 students.
Kellert said she has received positive feedback about the program.
“They were very thankful,” she said of the students who received gifts. “They were very happy, and that’s our goal — that if we help just one child, then we’ve accomplished something.
“Girl Scouts is all about bettering our community, and this is one way we can do that.”
There are six girls ages 8-15 in Troop 10510.
Kellert said their 2017 collection campaign got under way just two weeks ago, but donations are accepted throughout the year.
“They ask family and friends (for donations), and there are (collection) boxes set up for community donations,” she said.
Kellert has also distributed flyers that advertise the program and provide contact information for making donations.
A portion of the troop’s proceeds from bake sales, car washes, yard sales and other fundraisers also benefits the Collecting Cuz We Care campaign.
Kellert said she is impressed with her troop’s efforts to help others.
“They look forward to this (project),” she said. “They have friends who they knew were in need, and that’s why we started it. They are very passionate about it, and it’s something we want to continue to do.
“We have an amazing group of girls. They’re very generous. They’re very kind-hearted. I couldn’t be prouder of each one of them.”
To make a donation, contact Kellert at 414-0197. Donations may also be dropped off at Goody’s Unlimited on North Hanover Street in Carlisle.