Lancaster New Era / Published: Jan 19, 2009
By JANET KELLEY, Staff Writer
A drunken driver was sentenced to 8½ to 17 years in prison Thursday for a traffic accident that killed a Lancaster County state trooper last year.
Trooper Kenton E. Iwaniec, 24, had just finished his evening shift at the Avondale barracks and was driving north on Route 41 toward his home in Lancaster around 10 p.m. on March 28, when an oncoming sport utility vehicle crashed head-on into his car.
Behind the wheel of the SUV was Kristina Quercetti, 41, of Landenberg. Chester County, who was not only drunk — her blood alcohol level was 0.34 percent, which is four times the legal limit — but also illegally under the influence of the prescription drug Oxycodone, prosecutors said.
Quercetti’s 4-year-old son was in the back seat of her vehicle, the court was told, but escaped uninjured. The pair had been returning from an evening at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, officials said.
On Thursday, Chester County Court Judge Ronald Nagle listened to nearly five hours of testimony before imposing the sentence, according to the Daily Local News of West Chester.
More than 100 supporters of Iwaniec, including family, friends and fellow Pennsylvania State Police troopers, filled the spectator section of courtroom, as well as about 20 supporters for Quercetti.
According to the prosecution, shortly before the fatal crash, 911 operators started receiving reports of an erratic driver on Route 41, who was traveling between 70 and 80 mph without headlights illuminated.
Quercetti clipped the side mirror of an Ephrata man’s car before crashing into Iwaniec’s car at 73 mph, prosecutors said.
Iwaniec’s fellow state troopers, some of whom had just finished a shift with him, responded to the scene and found him trapped in the wreckage.
He was rushed to Christiana Hospital, where he died shortly before his family could be brought in from their home in Westmoreland County.
Originally from Ligonier, Iwaniec graduated from the state police academy in December 2007 and had just completed his probationary period, officials said.
Family members described him as active in his church, an athlete and outdoorsman who friends said fulfilled his dream when he joined the Pennsylvania State Police.
Quercetti had pleaded guilty in October to the charges of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence of intoxicants, endangering the welfare of a child, recklessly endangering another person, recklessly endangering a child and possession of Oxycodone.
The judge ordered her to pay more than $12,000 to cover Iwaniec’s funeral costs.
The defense told the judge on Thursday that Quercetti’s poor childhood caused her to drink and make bad decisions, according to The Daily Local New report.
“I never thought I would hurt someone,” Quercetti said as she apologized to the dead trooper’s family.
On Friday, the judge called Quercetti back before him to clarify why he imposed the state prison sentence. Defense attorney Thomas Ramsey said afterward he is considering appealing the length of the sentence, according to The Daily Local News.
Staff writer Janet Kelley can be reached at jkelley@LNPnews.com or 481-6026.