New Castle News

March 15, 2013

Driver in fatal crash gets prison sentence

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — An off-duty bus driver, charged in a fatal accident, is facing time in a state prison.

Marilyn J. Gallagher, 53, of 2672 Ben Franklin Highway, Edinburg, was sentenced Tuesday to serve 18 months to two years in a state correctional institution, followed by 18 months of probation. She also was ordered to pay fines, costs and restitution totaling nearly $4,000.

Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge J. Craig Cox imposed the sentence.

Gallagher pleaded guilty to charges of homicide by vehicle, aggravated assault, driving under the influence of alcohol and driving outside of her lane for an accident that occurred while she was driving her personal sport utility vehicle, which struck a car and killed 22-year-old Michael Peace of Edinburg on Nov. 23, 2009.

The collision occurred on Route 422, in front of Michaelangelo’s Flea Market in Pulaski Township.

Peace was a passenger in a truck driven by Joshua Hulton, 26, who was injured.

State police reported Gallagher’s westbound vehicle had crossed the center line and struck Hulton’s eastbound pick-up truck almost head-on.

Pulaski Township police reported a hospital blood test showed seven prescription drugs — six used to treat anxiety — and oxycodone were in Gallagher’s blood when the accident occurred.

According to Pulaski police, Gallagher’s trial started Monday and attorneys were prepared to begin opening arguments Tuesday when she pleaded guilty. Her attorney is David H. Acker.

Peace’s family members attended the proceeding, according to court records.

In his sentencing, Cox reasoned there is an undue risk that, had Gallagher been given only probation or partial confinement, she would commit another crime. He concluded she is in need of correctional treatment that can be provided most effectively by commitment to a correctional facility, and that a lesser sentence would depreciate the seriousness of the crime.

Gallagher was ordered to report to jail at 9 a.m. April 12 to serve her sentence at the State Correctional Institution at Cambridge Springs in Crawford County.

She previously had worked a bus driver for the Mohawk school district.

Attempts to reach Mohawk superintendent Kathleen Kwolek Thursday about Gallagher’s status were unsuccessful.