Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Police: O'Neill blamed crash on deer

Although blood-tests results are not expected for weeks, police said today that they filed charges last week because of substantial evidence that Sean O. O'Neill Jr. had abused alcohol again; in 2006 he fatally shot a friend at an underage drinking party.

Police: O'Neill blamed crash on deer

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Sean O. O'Neill Jr. is in trouble with the law again.

Many area residents gave thanks last week that they had no connection to the embattled O'Neill clan, which made headlines once again.

Although blood-tests results are not expected for weeks, police said today that they filed charges last week against Sean O. O'Neill Jr. because of substantial evidence that he had abused alcohol again; in 2006, he fatally shot a friend and fellow Cardinal O'Hara classmate at an underage drinking party.

West Goshen Township police said O'Neill, 22, of Glen Mills, was driving at 12:55 a.m. in the 800 block of Westtown Road when he lost control of his black Cadillac Escalade, which traveled down an embankment, smashed into two cars, and then crashed into the home's attached garage. No one was injured, police said. The homeowners told police that three people were asleep in the residence when the crash occurred and that O'Neill "attempted to back away from the garage several times in an attempt to free his vehicle ... backing up and hitting the garage over and over," the criminal complaint said.  

The complaint said O'Neill, who exuded a strong alcohol odor, told police that he had one beer and that a deer ran in front of his vehicle. He said he could not put weight on his leg for an extended period of time because he had broken it and had been carrying a medical boot in the car to assist him with walking, the complaint said. O'Neill put the boot on but still failed a series of field sobriety tests, the complaint said.

O'Neill first came to public attention when he accidentally shot and killed Scott Sheridan, 17, during an unchaperoned drinking party at the O'Neills' Chester County home on Sept. 1, 2006. O'Neill was adjudicated as a juvenile and had to complete two residential treatment programs before being released in 2009.

The shooting death prompted a search of the family's palatial Willistown Township home that led to a federal firearms conviction for Sean Owen O'Neill Sr., 51, an illegal immigrant and former Delaware County pub owner who was recently deported to Ireland after serving an 18-month jail sentence.

Another of the family's three children, Roisin O'Neill, 26, has also had problems with alcohol abuse. She is serving a 5-to-10-year prison term for causing a crash on Sept. 19, 2008, that killed Patricia Murphy Waggoner, 63, a grandmother from Brimfield, Mass. Police said Roisin O'Neill was driving drunk in the wrong direction on I-476 in Plymouth Township. In 2009, the O'Neill's youngest daughter was cited for underage drinking during a routine DUI checkpoint by state police.

First Assistant District Attorney Patrick Carmody said Sean O'Neill should not waste time seeking admittance into the county's Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, a regimen for first-time, non-violent offenders. "He wouldn't be accepted," Carmody said. He explained that prosecutors can look at juvenile records in assessing a person's suitability for the program, which enables participants to erase their conviction if they complete the requirements. "He has a prior manslaughter conviction related to alcohol," Carmody said. "Plus, the current case is borderline; he ran into a house. We've denied people before for that reason alone... It's very fortunate that no one was hurt."  

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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 awhelan@philly.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/aubreyjwhelan.

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