A Collegeville man who authorities said was convicted eight years ago of causing a death in Alabama when he was behind the wheel has been charged in an accident that killed a 16-year-old Pottsgrove High School student last month.
Robert Norman Sitler Jr., 43, and his girlfriend, Denise Dinnocenti, 42, also of Collegeville, were charged in the death of Timothy Paciello Jr.
The Lower Pottsgrove Police Department and the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office announced Monday that Sitler was driving the vehicle that hit Paciello as the high school junior crossed High Street at Sunnyside Avenue on the night of Nov. 12.
Sitler, who had told police he had been a passenger, faces charges of homicide by vehicle, insurance fraud, unsworn falsification to authorities, false reports, corruption of minors, conspiracy, reckless driving, speeding, and other counts.
Charges against Dinnocenti, who said she had been driving, include insurance fraud, unsworn falsification to authorities, false reports, corruption of minors, and conspiracy.
Authorities said Sitler was driving west on High Street, tailgating another vehicle, as both approached the intersection where Paciello was crossing.
As the vehicle in front signaled a right turn, Sitler veered into the center left-turn lane, speeded up to pass, and hit Paciello, who was waiting to continue crossing the street.
After the accident, Dinnocenti told bystanders and police she had been driving. Sitler, in a written statement, claimed the same. Dinnocenti's two children, who were in the backseat at the time of the accident, corroborated that account.
Dinnocenti and Sitler also allegedly provided wrong information to an insurance company involving an accident claim Sitler filed.
During a follow-up interview with investigators on Nov. 17, Dinnocenti and Sitler admitted that Sitler - who they said had drunk "a few beers" - was the driver.
"Dinnocenti stated she had said she was the driver because of Sitler's past criminal history and she did not want Sitler to get in trouble," said Kevin R. Steele, Montgomery County first assistant district attorney.
The pair also acknowledged instructing Dinnocenti's children, 11 and 13, to lie about who was driving when Paciello was struck.
Sitler has a criminal history in a number of states.
The Associated Press reported in September 2006 that Sitler, then living in Pensacola, Fla., pleaded guilty to manslaughter after the cement truck he was driving crossed a center line and crashed into the side of a Ford Crown Victoria driven by a county commissioner.
Prosecutors cited alcohol and a lack of sleep as factors in that crash. Sitler's attorneys said he lost control of the truck when he swerved to avoid a vehicle that slowed unexpectedly.
The AP account said Sitler was sentenced to eight months of house arrest to be followed by five years of probation.
In Florida, his convictions include reckless driving and driving with a suspended license. In North Carolina, he was found guilty of driving while impaired.
After his arraignment before District Judge Edward Kropp Sr. in Pottstown on Monday, Sitler was sent to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility with cash bail set at $1 million.
Assistant District Attorney Lauren McNulty said Dinnocenti was released on $100,000 unsecured bail.