Hazleton Man Pleads Guilty To Vehicular Homicide Charges

September 22, 2018

WILKES-BARRE — A Hazleton man accused of driving drunk when he caused a fatal rear-end collision in Hazle Twp. last year pleaded guilty Friday to vehicular homicide charges.

Christopher C. Ecker, 31, pleaded guilty to homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI, and two counts of DUI.

Luzerne County Judge William Amesbury accepted the plea and immediately sentenced Ecker to four to eight years in state prison followed by two years of probation.

According to prosecutors, Ecker had a blood-alcohol level of .225 percent after crashing into a Honda Civic on June 3, 2017, killing Rose Marie Lombardo, 94, of Hazleton.

The driver of the Civic, Richard H. Palushock, told troopers he was heading east on Hazle Twp. Boulevard when Ecker, driving a 2014 red Ford Mustang, sped past in the westbound lane.

Ecker then made a U-turn and came up behind the Civic, attempting to pass the car by using the westbound lane, police said. But when an oncoming vehicle approached, Ecker swerved back behind the car and hit it from behind, according to police.

Palushock’s vehicle spun and traveled across the westbound lane and onto the north shoulder, where it hit a utility pole on the passenger side. Lombardo died of multiple traumatic injuries sustained in the crash.

As part of his sentence, Ecker will be required to pay nearly $12,000 in restitution and must undergo a drug and alcohol evaluation. Amesbury ordered him remanded to state prison.

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