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Epileptic Charged In Accident That Killed Boy

August 26, 1990

WEST MIFFLIN, Pa. (AP) _ A man whose driver’s license was taken away because he has epilepsy was charged with homicide after he suffered a seizure while driving and struck and killed a 7-year-old boy, authorities said.

James Cheatham, 23, of Hazelwood was ordered Friday to stand trial in the Aug. 3 death of Ryan Maszle in West Mifflin.

At a hearing Friday, the arresting officer, Joseph Sotak, said he initially suspected Cheatham was under the influence of drugs or alcohol because Cheatham said nothing after the accident and could barely walk.

″I had to practically carry him over to my police car,″ he said.

About 15 minutes after the accident, however, Cheatham recovered from his seizure.

After the hearing in Allegheny County Court, Cheatham was charged with involuntary manslaughter and homicide by vehicle.

Cheatham’s attorney argued that because his client was suffering a seizure at the time, he could not have formed the intent to harm and therefore the charges were unfounded.

Ryan was sitting on a fence with his sister and cousin when the car struck him.

″The car came speeding down the road. I happened to look up the road and said, ‘My God 3/8’ and the next thing I knew, the kids flew,″ said his grandmother, Ada Sarvor. ″I watched until the car hit the fence. It happened so fast.″

Cheatham also was charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, driving under suspension, reckless driving and carrying a firearm without a license. Cheatham lost his driver’s license last year because of his condition.

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