'We can have closure': West Virginia man found guilty in fatal wrong-way crash

·4 min read

May 24—EBENSBURG — One by one, the verdicts on the seven charges facing Chase Edward Turner were read in the courtroom of Cambria County Judge Patrick T. Kiniry.

One charge in particular — homicide by motor vehicle while driving under the influence — drew an emotional reaction from assembled family and friends of Olivia Red.

Needing less than 80 minutes to reach a verdict on Monday, Cambria County jurors found Turner guilty of all seven counts related to a fatal wrong-way DUI crash on U.S. Route 219 North on May 31, 2018.

The four-day trial, which at times saw testimony draw passionate reactions from many clad in red to show support for Red, was a big step for those who knew her well.

"We've been waiting almost three years for this," Tracy Delvecchio, Red's mother, said following the jury's decision. "If they gave this man 100 years, it's never going to feel like justice to us, but we can have closure. Olivia was 20 years old, she was just getting ready to launch. So every day of our lives, we miss her.

"We smell apple pie, we hear a song. We need closure. We're happy with the verdicts."

Turner was led out of the courtroom by Cambria County sheriff's deputies in red handcuffs after the verdict was read. Kiniry has set June 22 as the sentencing date for Turner.

The prosecution called two dozen witnesses to the stand during the trial. While Assistant Cambria County District Attorney Kevin Persio told jurors at the start of the case on May 18 that the commonwealth could not provide an eyewitness testimony that put Turner in the driver's seat of the southbound 2009 Dodge Ram that collided with the northbound Toyota Camry driven by Red just minutes past midnight on May 31, 2018, a lineup of experts through numerous forensic and scientific fields were able to convince jurors that it was Turner, and not Julio Alejos, who was with Turner that night, who was operating the vehicle responsible for Red's death along with serious injuries to her passenger, Angela Phillips.

"Any time in a case, it would be great to have one or two eyewitnesses who see the crime take place come to court and testify to what they saw," Persio said. "We knew what we didn't have here, so we had to utilize all of the other resources, including the scientific evidence, to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the placement of these two individuals even though nobody saw it, it was a pretty easy decision for the jury to make."

Turner's defense counsel called no witnesses to the stand on Monday after the prosecution rested its case, but argued to jurors that it was Alejos driving the vehicle after the pair left Quaker Steak & Lube in Richland Township.

While the defense agreed that Turner had lied to officials when he said that a designated driver had fled the scene on foot following the accident, it maintained that Turner wasn't doing so to save himself, but to cover for Alejos.

"You heard testimony from Mr. Alejos," attorney Karen E. Kuebler said. "Mr. Alejos can't remember who was the driver of the car while under oath. We submit that Mr. Turner said that there was a designated driver in an effort to protect his friend, not in an effort to get himself out of trouble."

Throughout the argument, Kuebler refuted the testimony of the prosecution's expert witnesses while also calling out what the defense believed were holes in the investigation process.

During the prosecution's closing arguments, Persio asked jurors to use common sense and life experience when determining a verdict, while also contesting that the injuries suffered by Turner and Alejos are consistent with the belief that Turner was driving and that Alejos was reclined while in the front passenger seat.

Persio also told the jury that Turner, who police say had a blood-alcohol concentration of .248% — more than three times the legal limit — didn't intend to commit the crimes that he was charged with when he got behind the wheel, as he was accused of doing, but that the choice he supposedly made comes with consequences.

"It wasn't his intention to cause these injuries," Persio said in the closing statement. "But Olivia Red is dead. He made a choice. He changed the lives of lots of people."

Shawn Curtis is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5085. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnCurtis430.

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