In a court order filed Thursday, Cumberland County Senior Judge Kevin A. Hess denied a petition to have charges against a Newville teen moved to juvenile court. The charges were filed following a fatal crash in February 2020.
Attorneys for Jacob Mowery, who was 17 at the time of the crash that killed Monica Soccio of Newville, sought to have the charges moved from adult court to juvenile court, saying there would be sufficient time for him to receive treatment before he reached his 21st birthday.
“In terms of treatment in the Juvenile Court system, we are satisfied that, for Jacob Mowery, it would be too little and too late,” Hess wrote in his opinion.
Hess recounted testimony from hearings on the petition that identified Mowery as “a rambunctious child with high energy and something of a disregard for the rules” as early as nursery school. Discipline issues followed him through school, and many witnesses in the case described Mowery as “a personable and generous young man who was at the same time unpredictable and subject to unusual impulsivity.”
One example of that impulsiveness cited by Hess was Mowery driving a motorcycle into a swimming pool at a social gathering.
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Hess wrote that getting a driver’s license allowed Mowery to fully engage his “dangerous propensities,” and included smoking marijuana while driving in a style Hess described as “low flying.”
“The behavior we witnessed ... is nothing short of suicidal on Mr. Mowery’s part,” Hess wrote.
To have a case moved to juvenile court, the court considers factors such as the impact of the offense on the victims and community, the threat the child poses to public safety, the nature of the offense, and the potential for treatment, among others, according to the opinion.
Hess wrote that despite Mowery’s behavioral issues, he does not have a long history with the juvenile court and that, he suggested, may be part of the problem.
“Had Jacob been subject to court-ordered treatment earlier, perhaps we would not be where we are today,” he wrote.
Hess wrote that the court could not be satisfied that Mowery could be rehabilitated prior to his 21st birthday when juvenile court jurisdiction would expire.
The opinion also noted that “beneficial effects of abstinence from drugs and alcohol” have been observed during Mowery’s incarceration. He has received his GED and testimony during the hearings indicated he was “on his best behavior.”
Hess concluded that “the needs of both Mr. Mowery and the public appear to be already being served by placing him in a correctional institution for adults.”
“Our office believes the public interest is best served by keeping Mr. Mowery’s case in the adult criminal system, and we are grateful for the family of the victim that the Court agreed. Mr. Mowery is still pending trial, and is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Senior Assistant District Attorney Lauren Perchinski wrote in an email to The Sentinel.
Mowery was charged with one count of murder in the third degree, two counts of aggravated assault with extreme indifference, two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, homicide by vehicle while under the influence, two counts of aggravated assault by vehicle by DUI, two counts of aggravated assault by vehicle, one count of homicide by vehicle, four counts of driving under the influence of a controlled substance, involuntary manslaughter, four counts of simple assault and eight counts of recklessly endangering another person.
Those charges were held over for court in a May 2020 preliminary hearing.
Police said Mowery was driving a 2010 Mercedes-Benz ML350 north on Walnut Bottom Road in Dickinson Township when he crossed over the double-yellow line in the 2000 block and hit a 2009 Volvo V50 head-on.
The driver of the Volvo, Monica Soccio, 46, was pronounced dead at the scene.
A 16-year-old passenger in Mowery’s car suffered a broken leg, lacerations and a concussion.
In court documents, prosecutors say Mowery was driving an estimated 96 mph at the time of the crash.
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