A Virginia man who struck and killed two people on Route 222 last year has pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide while DUI.
Anthony Caldwell, 31, of Stafford, Virginia, entered a plea Nov. 8, three days after a criminal trial before Judge Howard F. Knisely was canceled.
He will serve six to 12 years in prison for the deaths.
Caldwell’s van struck a tow truck driver assisting a disabled motorist on Route 222 near the Peach Road overpass at around 1:50 a.m. Sept. 10, 2017, police said.
Ralph Henry Watrous II, the tow truck driver, and Robert M. Buckwalter Jr. were pronounced dead at the scene.
Caldwell was sentenced by Knisely to three to six years in prison for each of four charges: two counts each of homicide by vehicle and homicide by vehicle while DUI, according to court records.
He also was sentenced to one to two years for each of two counts of an accident involving death while not properly licensed.
Two sentences will be served consecutively, according to the county clerk of courts. The others will be concurrent, meaning Caldwell will spend a minimum of six years and a maximum of 12 years in prison.
There were no additional penalties under the plea agreement for five summary traffic violations: two counts for passing the tow truck in an immediately adjacent lane and one count each for driving while not properly licensed, reckless driving and a lane violation.
‘He made a bad choice’
Watrous, 44, of Rheems, worked for Mack’s Tire Service, according to his family. He was at the scene to remove Buckwalter’s disabled car.
Buckwalter, 46, of Ephrata, was a pressman at R.R. Donnelly & Sons.
Buckwalter’s son-in-law, Timothy Marquette of Ephrata said Thursday he is satisfied with the sentence, although he believes “stricter penalties should be looked at in the future.”
Caldwell, Marquette said, “wasn’t a bad guy” and “he didn’t set out that night to kill my father-in-law.”
He “had a few drinks with a friend after work” and fell asleep while driving, Marquette said.
“He made a bad choice,” he said. “My father-in-law was a very forgiving and understanding man. We try to live by that.”
Drinking at a friend’s house
Caldwell told police he was drinking at a friend’s house before driving. Tests showed a blood alcohol content of .088 shortly after the crash, according to district attorney. The legal limit for drivers in Pennsylvania is .08 percent.
According to previous reports, his van veered from the right, northbound lane on Route 222 and across a fog line. The van struck both men, who were on foot, according to police.
A witness driving north on Route 222 told police the van was driving erratically before the crash. The tow truck had its emergency lights on while on the right shoulder, but the van did not move into the left lane as required by law, the witness told police.
Caldwell had been working in Lancaster County, police said. He had a learner’s permit from Virginia and was not licensed to drive without an adult passenger, according to the district attorney’s office.