Friday, August 22, 2014
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Bristol Twp. man surrenders in hit-run death

Croydon man, 23, was walking on New Falls Road just early July 22 when he was hit by a Cadillac, police say. He died six days later.

Bristol Twp. man surrenders in hit-run death

John Rearick “liked to walk.” The 23-year-old Croydon man “never had a driver’s license,” a former neighbor said, “so he’d walk or ride his bike” to get around.

Rearick was walking on busy New Falls Road late July 22 when a Cadillac hit him. It slowed briefly, then sped off, police said.

The graduate of Harry S Truman High School and Pennco Tech suffered severe head injuries and died six days later.

Investigators were struggling to identify the hit-and-run driver when Jonathan H. Simmons, 27, of Bristol Township, turned himself in Tuesday, admitting he was driving the 2001 Cadillac DeVille that struck Rearick, according to court documents.

“I don’t know how long the investigation would have taken” if Simmons had not turned himself in, Matt Hoover, Bucks County assistant district attorney, said Wednesday.

Simmons faces a sentence of one to seven years in prison if found guilty of the third-degree felony charge of leaving the scene of a fatal accident, Hoover said.

He also was charged Tuesday with reckless endangerment, driving with a suspended license, failing to help a victim, and failing to report an accident, according to court records.

District Justice John J. Kelly Jr. released Simmons on $500,000 bail, which Hoover called “an appropriate amount” because Simmons turned himself in.

Rearick was hit just after midnight while walking “in the westbound lanes of travel with his back to oncoming traffic,” police said in court documents.
Video from two surveillance cameras at Penn Jersey Auto captured the accident, including Rearick “sliding across the roadway” and the Cadillac then driving around him, slowing, and speeding off, according to the documents.

Simmons had picked up a prescription for his pregnant girlfriend and was headed to their home on Atkins Avenue at the time of the accident, his lawyer, Louis Busico, said.

“He’s a decent, hardworking, honest person who extends his sympathy to the Rearick family,” Busico said of Simmons. “This is an accident that hurt two families.”

Simmons and his girlfriend have two children, and he works at Rosenberger’s Dairies in Levittown and a liquor store in New Jersey, Busico said. He does not have a criminal record, the lawyer said.

As for taking 17 days to turn himself in, Simmons “consulted with his minister and his father and decided to come forward to save law enforcement any further efforts,” Busico said.

Police are still investigating the accident, including whether alcohol affected the driver, Hoover said. Busico said Simmons does not drink alcohol.

Hoover declined to comment on whether drugs or alcohol had caused Rearick to walk on the five-lane road, or where the victim was before the accident.

Rearick grew up on Jonquil Lane in Levittown, where he “loved to fix things like lawn mowers, weed wackers, and snowblowers,” neighbor Nick Gushue said.

The family’s lawyer, Mark Zlock, said Rearick “was always interested in helping people,” including being an organ donor.

Zlock could not say where Rearick had been before the accident or where he was headed.

As for the penalties the driver faces if convicted, Zlock said they “don’t seem to be enough, but they’re in accordance with the law. The family has accepted that.”

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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