Charges were held to court against a Zelienople man who police said drove into three Mercer County motorcyclists, killing one of them, on Sept. 7.

Rowdy Conley Jr., 54, of Jackson Center was killed in the crash on U.S. Route 19 in Jackson Township, Butler County. Matt Montgomery, 27, of Greenville and John Cusick, 33, of Hermitage were both critically injured; Cusick is still hospitalized. All three worked at CCL Container in Hermitage and had gone for an evening ride.

Their families lined a bench Wednesday in the Evans City courtroom of District Judge Wayne Seibel for the preliminary hearing of John A. Cartwright, who is charged with homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, reckless driving and other driving-related offenses.

Jackson Township policeman Adam T. Timko testified that Cartwright told him he had been leaning over to fetch something off the passenger-side floor of his pickup when the truck crossed the center line.

Timko said Cartwright told him he had leaned over, failed to grasp what he was reaching for because of missing fingers on his right hand, and then unbuckled his seatbelt and tried again.

Police Chief Len Keller previously said Cartwright had been involved in more than a dozen crashes, mostly because of seizures from an unknown medical condition.

But Timko testified that Cartwright’s blood tests showed he had taken his medication.

Cartwright’s defense attorney, Philip Lope, argued that for the criminal charges such as vehicular homicide to be held to court, prosecutors needed to provide evidence that Cartwright’s actions were grossly negligent.

Lope argued Cartwright’s leaning over didn’t fit the bill. “That’s not a gross deviation from what ordinary people do,” Lope said. “That is, in fact, what ordinary people do.”

Assistant District Attorney Russ Karl painted the picture differently. He said Cartwright did not just lean over, but unseated himself and put his head below the dashboard, allowing his truck to cross the middle lane in the process.

Seibel agreed and bound the charges to Butler County Common Pleas Court.

Cartwright remains free after posting bond.

Trending Video