Sunday, December 21, 2014

Driver in fatal crash faces 3rd-degree murder charge

Drew Bodden was driving more than 140 m.p.h.when his car ramed into a Honda CR-V, killing a 9-year-old girl on Thanksgiving Eve, authorities said Thursday.

Driver in fatal crash faces 3rd-degree murder charge

A Pipersville man basically was playing Russian roulette when he drove his Ford Mustang Cobra more than 140 m.p.h. into another car on Thanksgiving Eve, killing a 9-year-old Bucks County girl and critically injuring her grandmother, authorities said Thursday.

“If someone’s unfortunate to be in your path, they’re done,” county District Attorney David Heckler said after announcing the arrest of Drew Bodden, 37, on third-degree murder and other charges.

Driving at 142 to 154 m.p.h., “you’ve completely given up control of what happens,” Heckler said.

Bodden’s souped-up 2003 Mustang may have been playing a “cat-and-mouse game” with a black Cadillac seconds before the crash on the busy Route 611 bypass in Doylestown Township about 6:35 p.m., Assistant District Attorney Robert James said.

There were “no facts to indicate drag racing,” James said. “Maybe on Bodden’s part.”
Bodden and his attorney declined to comment after the lifelong Bucks resident was released on $500,000 unsecured bond.

Killed in the crash was Holly Huynh, who was buckled into the backseat of her grandmother’s 2008 Honda CR-V. She suffered a broken neck and other injuries and was declared dead at the scene, according to the affidavit. The girl would have been 10 next Tuesday.

Her grandmother, Suzanne Berry, 55, remains on a respirator at Temple University Hospital with a severe brain-stem injury, James said.

Bodden and his girlfriend, Christine Mokrynchuk, 43, also were seriously hurt.

Bodden suffered a broken arm and leg and was released from the hospital Tuesday. Mokrynchuk suffered a broken ankle, wrist, and sternum and a possible head injury, James said.

Alcohol and drugs were not a factor in the crash, he said. “His judgment was not impaired.”

That night, Berry was driving Huynh to their Pipersville home from the girl’s gymnastics class, while Bodden and Mokrynchuk were heading home from dinner, according to the affidavit.

Bodden was driving the Mustang in the left northbound lane when the Cadillac, traveling 75 to 80 m.p.h., moved over to let it pass, James said.

“If they were racing, the Cadillac would have sped up,” he said. “The Mustang was going twice as fast — that’s not racing.”

Within one-eighth of a mile, the Mustang rear-ended the Honda, crushing both cars and damaging the Cadillac as it drove through the wreckage, James said.

Debris from the crash was spread over more than 300 yards. “It was one of the longest crash scenes I’ve observed,” James said.

All four victims had to be cut out of the cars. Berry had to be revived at the scene before she was flown to the hospital.

When Huynh and Berry did not arrive home, Berry’s son drove around, looking from them, and came upon the accident scene.

Investigators determined the Mustang was traveling 142 to 154 m.p.h., while the Honda was traveling 60 to 70. The speed limit for the four-lane bypass is 55.

A standard Mustang Cobra can reach 155 m.p.h., James said. Investigators found thousands of dollars of modifications to Bodden’s car “to make it go faster and sustain higher speed,” he added.

The third-degree murder charge is not common, “but neither are the facts,” Heckler said. “The point of this case is that this was a volitional act — he made a choice.”

Malice, which sets murder apart from manslaughter, is applicable in this case, Heckler said.
“It shows a complete indifference to human life.”

The murder charge carries a possible 40-year sentence and $50,000 fine. Bodden also could face 14 years if convicted of two counts of aggravated assault by vehicle.

Bodden, who has worked at CSC Asphalt in New Britain for 21 years, also was charged with homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, three counts of recklessly endangering another person, reckless driving, and speeding.

District Justice Mark Douple released Bodden without posting bail so he could continue taking medication and undergoing physical therapy. The judge also allowed Bodden to stay with his mother in Lambertville, N.J.

Huynh’s mother and grandfather could not be reached for comment.

About this blog
Chris Palmer covers Bucks County for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His previous work has appeared in the New York Times and on several Times blogs, including City Room, the Local East Village and SchoolBook (which has since been taken over by WNYC). Contact him at cpalmer@phillynews.com, 610 313 8212 or on Twitter, @cs_palmer.

Ben Finley covers Bucks County for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He previously worked for The Associated Press, FactCheck.org and the Bucks County Courier Times, where he won more than a dozen journalism awards from organizations including the Education Writers Association, the Society for Features Journalism and the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio and graduated with honors from The Ohio State University with a degree in journalism. Contact him at bfinley@phillynews.com, 610-313-8118 or on Twitter, @Ben_Finley.

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