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N. Phila. man gets 4-to-10 in hit-and-run

A Montco judge sentenced a Philadelphia man to up to 10 years for the hit-and-run death of a Wal-Mart manager.

A Montgomery County Court judge on Friday sentenced a North Philadelphia man to four to 10 years in state prison for the hit-and-run death last Feb. 3 of a Wal-Mart store manager in Cheltenham Township.

At the end of an extraordinary hearing in Norristown, Judge William J. Furber ordered George O. Humphrey, 25, confined at Pine Grove, a correctional facility for young offenders in Indiana, Pa.

As the sentence was read, Humphrey's mother, Marilyn, cried out, "Oh, my God," and left the courtroom.

Furber said that what began as a tragic accident became much more serious when Humphrey chose to flee and hide his involvement from authorities.

"If you had stopped to do everything you could to help that lady, things wouldn't be the way they are today," Furber said. "You were trying to avoid responsibility. . . . I can't forgive you for that, and you shouldn't be forgiven."

Michelle Powell, 53, the married mother of two grown children, died instantly of head injuries after being hit by a car as she stepped off the snowy median at Cheltenham Avenue near Easton Road.

She had just left work at 8 p.m. for her home in Oak Lane. Humphrey, at the wheel of the car, paused and inched along, then fled the scene, he told a packed courtroom.

"I was so scared. I was a coward," Humphrey said. "I was scared to go to jail."

Over the next two days, Humphrey cleaned the car of evidence, dumped the license plate, and arranged for the car to be left on a Camden street.

A witness who phoned in the license plate number gave Cheltenham police the lead they needed to find Humphrey. He was charged with vehicular homicide, failure to stop and render aid, and involvement in an accident while improperly licensed.

Furber's sentence, which was 16 to 40 months of incarceration on each of the three felony counts, was at the high end of state sentencing guidelines. The judge ordered the three jail terms to run consecutively.

George M. Griffith Jr., Humphrey's attorney, who had argued for the jail terms to run concurrently, said after the hearing that the judge "crafted a fair sentence in light of what happened."

Assistant District Attorney Lauren McNulty also praised the judge's order.

"It sends a very strong message that what he did should not be tolerated," McNulty said.

During the hearing, Michelle Powell's sister and daughter cried as they testified about the impact of Powell's death on their lives.

"I lost my life the moment her heart stopped," said daughter Angel, 27. "There's no one to shop with, or to talk to about anything, or to have my back. I lost it all."

Humphrey's father, George Humphrey Sr., testified that he was to blame for his son's misjudgment. He said he was in prison for 17 years when he should have been raising his son.

"I neglected my duties. I didn't teach him certain things about being a man and standing up," the father said. "I hope you all can forgive me and have mercy."