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Pa. man pleads to hit-run in 2005 cyclist's death

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INDIANA, Pa. (AP) — A western Pennsylvania man who won dismissal of criminal charges against him although he acknowledged that he had driven over the body of a fallen bicyclist and kept going almost seven years ago has pleaded guilty to a hit-and-run charge in the case.

Twenty-seven-year-old Gregory Wisneski Jr. of Shelocta pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor charge on Friday in Indiana County Court. He is scheduled for sentencing in July.

The Indiana Gazette says prosecutors reduced the main charge from a felony to a misdemeanor and dropped citations of failure to render aid and notify police.

Wisneski was charged in the July 2005 death of 29-year-old Sean Pearce, whose bicycle had struck a construction barrel on Route 119 in Burrell Township, causing him to fall onto the roadway.

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Wisneski was arrested in 2006, but defense attorneys argued that the state couldn't prove Pearce was alive when Wisneski hit him. Police said Wisneski said he "thought he hit a speed bump" and looked in his mirror and "seen a body laying on his back."

An Indiana County judge dismissed the case and the Superior Court upheld that decision, but the state Supreme Court overturned the ruling and said the lack of proof that the bicyclist was alive at the time of the crash didn't justify dismissal of charges of failure to stop, render aid and notify police.

"Today, he stood up in open court and said, 'Yes, I did it,' and he admitted to the facts as we stated them, and I think that's very important for the family moving forward," District Attorney Patrick Dougherty said.

Relatives of the victim agreed that the plea would help bring them some closure.

"My brother would be proud, and he's at peace right now. He couldn't be at peace until we were," said one of Pearce's sisters, Shannon Anderson.

WTAE-TV says Wisneski, who will remain free pending sentencing, didn't comment as he left the courtroom.

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