Man Accused of Killing Pa. Fire Chief Goes to Trial

May 25, 2013
A man accused of having a blood alcohol content of more than twice the legal limit faces murder charges in the death of the Logansville fire chief who was hit at a crash scene.

May 25--

Matthew Scott Diehl now faces a murder charge along with other charges filed against him in the April 27 Interstate 83 death of Loganville Volunteer Fire Chief Rodney Paul Miller.

District Justice Jeff Joy bound Diehl, 32, of Shrewsbury, over for trial today on all charges, including homicide by vehicle while DUI, hit and run and driving under the influence.

Eyewitness Matthew Hopkins choked up and Miller's widow cried as he testified to seeing a white SUV run into Miller, 45, of Seven Valleys, as the fire chief was setting up to direct traffic away from a crash farther south on the interstate.

Hopkins said he was driving south, approaching the Glen Rock exit after midnight when he saw flashing red lights in the distance. He said he slowed and put on his flashers while trying to discern what was going on.

He said he was 50 yards away from a pickup that was partially blocking both lanes when he saw Miller walk from behind the truck and start to cross the right lane.

"Before he made it to the other side, I saw a Trailblazer hit him," Hopkins said. "Just before he was hit, he turned to the right and saw the truck coming at him."

"I saw him try to jump out of the way, but he ...." Hopkins' voice trailed off.

"I did see him fly through the air, vertical, about 20 feet," he said. "I saw him up in the air, tumbling away."

Hopkins said he saw a brief flash of brake lights on the SUV and then it continued down the highway.

Hopkins said he got out and found Miller "just lying in the grass. I noticed his right leg was broken."

He said while he was on the phone with 911, Miller "let out a couple of gasps, but he was unconscious."

Glen Rock fireman Zachary James Immel testified he was working north of the other crash scene. He said he had blocked both lanes of I-83 with a fire truck and that there were a handful of vehicles waiting.

He said he saw a white Trailblazer "with extensive front end damage" pull up. He said the SUV's engine was starting to smoke and that there was a hole in the windshield.

Immel said he asked the driver what happened.

"He said, 'I hit a deer back by the Glen Rock exit,'" Immel said.

While still on the scene, Immel said he was informed by radio that a pedestrian had been struck. He said his assistant chief then radioed information about the damaged car.

Trooper Jonathan Confer said he was dispatched to the pedestrian scene, spent a few minutes there and then drove south to where Diehl was. He said he could smell alcohol emanating from the man "from a good distance away."

The hood of the SUV was buckled and there was a basketball-sized hole in the windshield, he said.

He also testified that Diehl told him "he thought he hit a deer." He said Diehl was taken into custody on suspicion of DUI.

Confer said he returned to where Miller's body was. He said he saw no evidence of braking, but found Miller's baseball cap in the middle of the right lane and his reflective vest wrapped around a post of the exit sign.

Trooper Jeff Gotwals testified that Diehl's blood alcohol level was .118 percent.

He said an accident reconstruction expert could testify at trial that there were no adverse weather or road conditions at the time of the crash and that there were no mechanical problems with Diehl's SUV.

Gotwals said he attended the autopsy and that Miller died from blunt force trauma. He said Miller's neck was broken, his hips and right ribs were "shattered" and that he had trauma to the head.

He also testified that Diehl had two prior DUI convictions, including one in Maryland where he fled the scene of a crash.

After binding over the charges, Joy said, "Mr. Diehl, I hope someday you realize not only the pain you have caused Mr. Miller's family, but your own family and the entire community."

Diehl remains in York County Prison without bail. A bail hearing for him is scheduled for May 28.

Following the hearing, Diehl's attorney, Suzanne Smith, said she does not believe Diehl's actions rise to third-degree murder. That crime comes with a sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison.

She also said Diehl's family "feels very bad for the Miller family."

Diehl is scheduled for formal arraignment in York County court on June 28.


Read his charging documents here.

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Copyright 2013 - York Daily Record, Pa.

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