By David DeKok
LEWISBURG Pa. (Reuters) - Four Pennsylvania teenagers were ordered on Tuesday to stand trial on felony assault charges after prosecutors said they went on a night-long rampage that ended with an Ohio woman critically injured by a rock thrown from a highway overpass.
Sharon Budd, 52, a teacher from Uniontown, Ohio, had her head split open in July by a rock hurled by one of the boys from an overpass above Interstate 80 in north-central Pennsylvania, authorities say. She lost an eye and part of her brain, and faces a long recovery.
Union County District Attorney D. Peter Johnson laid out his case against the four at a preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Jeffrey Mensch in Lewisburg. The hearing was moved to the county courthouse because of the large crowed of spectators and journalists expected.
Dylan Lahr, 17, of New Columbia, who is accused of throwing the rock that smashed through the Budd windshield; Tyler G. Porter, 17, of Milton; and Keefer L. McGee, 17, of New Columbia, were present but waived their right to a preliminary hearing. Johnson said he expects that lawyers for the three will seek to force the case into Juvenile Court.
Brian Manchester, lawyer for Brett Lahr, Dylan's 18-year-old brother, argued his client was merely along for the ride and was not part of the conspiracy by the other three to go out and raise havoc. He said Brett Lahr joined the group later in the evening after he got home from work.
Mensch, however, ruled that Lahr must stand trial on all nine charges.
McGee, who struck a plea bargain, said in court he had thrown rocks at cars before and considered it “harmless fun.”
Randy Budd, 53, testified that he, his wife, and daughter Kaylee, 19, were driving to New York City on the night of July 10 to see "Mamma Mia" on Broadway. Just before midnight, he heard what sounded like “a huge explosion, grenade-like.” Budd said he saw a hole in the windshield in front of his wife in the passenger seat, and pulled to the side of the highway.
“It was the most gruesome thing I’ve ever seen,” said Budd, describing his wife's injuries. “I’m pretty sure I was looking at brains and skull. Blood started gushing from her nose and mouth. The left side of her head swelled up.”
(Editing by Frank McGurty and Eric Walsh)