Hit-run Suspect Pleads To Manslaughter, Gets House Arrest
WILKES-BARRE — After six years of legal wrangling that stretched to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the case against hit-and-run suspect Daniel Loughnane came to a quiet close Friday with a plea to involuntary manslaughter and a sentence of house arrest.
Loughnane, 46, of Hanover Twp., was accused of running over 19-year-old Rebecca McCallick on Hazle Street in Wilkes-Barre on July 24, 2012. Prosecutors alleged Loughnane struck McCallick, who had been using marijuana and lying in the street, while on his way home from the Gentleman’s Club 10 strip club in Wilkes-Barre Twp.
In court Friday, McCallick’s mother Judy Habib Pribula wept as she wondered what would have happened if Loughnane had bothered to stop and help instead of fleeing the scene.
“Maybe she would have lived long enough for me to see her and comfort her,” Pribula said. “He took that right away from me.”
The case was tied up for years over the warrant-less seizure of Loughnane’s pickup. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court eventually held the seizure was illegal, barring prosecutors from using any evidence gleaned from the truck after it was seized.
Defense attorney Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. said that ruling as well as others that limited evidence against Loughnane helped in securing the plea agreement, which came with an agreed-upon sentence of a year in the Intermediate Punishment Program — the first month on house arrest.
“I think at the end of the day, everyone realized the uncertainty of a trial,” Olszewski said. “This was beneficial to everybody.”
Luzerne County First Assistant District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce said the loss of the truck was not fatal to the prosecution’s case — police never found McCallick’s DNA on it, and her boyfriend who witnessed the accident was still permitted to identify it — but he acknowledged it did limit evidence, such as a sound identification conducted after the seizure.
“We want to bring every piece of evidence that’s humanly possible, so part of reaching a plea agreement is discussing the weaknesses of any case,” Sanguedolce said.
Prosecutors had many long discussions with McCallick’s family about the case, and they are relieved that the case is over, he said.
“For them, I think it’s a matter of finality,” Sanguedolce said. “It’s a little bit of relief for them. They can actually maybe start getting some closure, with not having to relive this and wake up every day wondering what’s going to happen with the trial. More than anything, Rebecca’s mother expressed to me that she wanted to hear him stand up and take responsibility, which is what happened today.”
While he did plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of involuntary manslaughter, Loughnane did not address the court during the hearing.
He listened silently as Pribula gave an impassioned speech about her daughter and the long wait for justice — six years, two months and 19 days.
“That crushes us,” Pribula said. “I’m not going to tell you what I think about Daniel Loughnane. I’m sure you already know.”
Had Loughnane bothered to come forward at some point after hitting McCallick, the family would have been able to forgive him, she said. Instead, Loughnane will have to live knowing that one day he will have to reckon with what he did, she said.
“He’s going to die some day, and he’s going to have to answer to God,” Pribula said.
Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough accepted the plea agreement and imposed the agreed-upon sentence — a year in the probationary program, with the first month on house arrest with electronic monitoring.
Loughnane declined to comment as he left the courtroom.