Sunday, July 5, 2015

Grief, rage dominate fatal crash hearing

During the disposition hearing for a teen accused of causing a fatal crash, some of the victim-impact statements ramped up from anguish to anger.

Grief, rage dominate fatal crash hearing


During the disposition hearing for a teen accused of causing a fatal crash, some of the victim-impact statements escalated from extreme anguish to anger during the four-hour proceeding.

To the family of 19-year-old Jesika Kavanagh, a bright, caring, aspiring veterinarian with a talent for art and basketball, the injustice of her death appeared to be exacerbated by the unresponsiveness of the family of her killer, 18-year-old Kyle Wilson, the son of an East Whiteland Township police officer.

Kyle Wilson, an aspiring Marine, was chasing another vehicle and traveling more than 30 miles over the speed limit when he swerved into the oncoming lane on Glenside Avenue in Downingtown on Feb. 19. His Dodge truck hit Kavanagh's BMW head on, pushing it backward 20 feet and up an embankment. Assistant District Attorney Renee Merion said investigators identified 97 feet of braking by Wilson. Kavanagh's body was so crushed that she was unable to fulfill her wish to be an organ donor.

Nine loved ones described the excrutiating void left by Kavanagh's death, but her mother and sister also lashed out at the Wilson family, citing Facebook postings about Kyle Wilson's celebratory activities at graduation and the prom. "You have shown me and my family no remorse ..., You're saying you're sorry now is like spitting in my face," said Jesika's mother, Janet Kavanagh, anticipating the in-court apology that occurred a short time later.

Facing the family for the first time, Wilson said words were inadequate. "Nothing I ever say or do will ever be enough to change what happened ...I can only, unfortunately, say that I am sorry." The teen then lost his composure when he turned to address his own family, His voice cracked as he apologized to them.

His attorney, Robert J. Donatoni, said yesterday that he was simply doing his job by instructing the family not to contact anyone connected to the Kavanaghs.  Asked today whether he would have done anything differently - given the vitriol directed at the Wilson family - he said no. He said that he understood the family's wrath and that his primary motivation was to avoid jeopardizing any insurance coverage. "The closer you get to an offense that is more than gross negligence or recklessness, something that could be viewed as intentional, the greater risk that an insurance company could attempt to deny coverage," he said. "It's always been my practice to advise clients to refrain from comment; it protects them and the entire case."

Donatoni called the case a tragedy for everyone. "There are no winners here," he said.

Victor Cozzone, the victim's uncle, would agree. He praised the compassion and "painstaking explanation" the judge provided, but said today that he remained troubled by what he perceived as Kyle Wilson's lack of remorse. "He only cried when he apologized to his own family," Cozzone said. "I still don't think he understands the magnitude of what he did." 

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About this blog
Aubrey Whelan covers Chester County for the Inquirer. A native of a Philadelphia suburb so small it doesn't have a zip code, she grew up reading the Inquirer and was thrilled to take a job there in fall 2012. Previously, she covered crime, courts and D.C.'s Occupy movement for the Washington Examiner. Aubrey graduated from Penn State in 2011, where she worked for the award-winning campus newspaper and majored in journalism and French. Contact her at 215-495-5855 or You can also follow her on Twitter at

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