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Man sentenced in DUI murder that killed teen

Searcy pleaded guilty to five charges from crime in 2019

LEWISTOWN – An Altoona man was sentenced in Mifflin County last week to a total of 8 1/2 to 17 years in prison for a head-on collision while intoxicated that killed a teen girl last January in Wayne Township.

David Warren Searcy pleaded guilty to homicide by vehicle while DUI, homicide by vehicle, recklessly endangering another person, driving under the influence and driving with a suspended or revoked license. Thursday, President Judge David Barron issued a sentence of 6 1/2 to 13 years for the DUI homicide by vehicle, 1 1/2 to 3 years for the homicide by vehicle, six to 12 months for recklessly endangering another person, three to six months for the DUI charge and 30 days for driving with a suspended license.

Mifflin County District Attorney Chris Torquato said the sentences run consecutively, except for the DUI and driving while suspended charges, which will run concurrently.

“The District Attorney’s Office sought and obtained sentencing enhancements to these offenses due to prior DUI offenses in Mr. Searcy’s past,” Torquato said in an email to The Sentinel.

Searcy was also ordered to pay $32,586.31 in court costs and restitutions.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, Pennsylvania State Police responded to a three-vehicle crash on U.S. 22/522 at 9 p.m., Jan. 20, 2019.

According to police, a Pontiac Grand Prix driven by Searcy caused the crash while traveling north by trying to pass a Ford F-250 pickup driven by Scott Brandoff, while a Ford Focus, driven by Chantel Elsesser was traveling south. The Grand Prix struck the Focus head on, which in turn caused the Focus to hit the F-250.

According to police, Elsesser, who was 17 years old at the time of the crash, was taken to a hospital in Huntingdon while Brandoff was not injured and drove away from the scene. Police said Searcy showed signs of impairment and was transported to Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital where, via a blood test, police found Searcy’s blood-alcohol concentration was 0.02%. Police also found metabolites of THC (the psychoactive compound in marijuana) and benzoylecgonine, (an inactive metabolite created by the breakdown of cocaine inside the body), in his system.

Elsesser was eventually transferred to Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, where she was pronounced dead on Jan. 28, 2019.

According to the affidavit, Searcy told police he was passing the truck and didn’t know how fast the other driver was going, and that he saw her coming and tried to avoid the collision.

Searcy remains incarcerated in the Mifflin County Correctional Facility, awaiting transfer to state prison.

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