2013-07-11 / Front Page

Death of Teen Related to Underage Drinking Party

Mother and Son Among Focus of Police Investigation
by Rick Hiduk

A party in a field near the Tunkhannock and Lemon Township line, at which a significant amount of beer was made available to about 20 minors, has led to three arrests by Pennsylvania State Police.

On May 5, the teens gathered on a property along Avery Station and Vago roads, where Christopher Packer, 17, a student at Tunkhannock Area High School, would later lose his life when the UTV he was riding flipped.

Several references to drug use are embedded in a series of police reports and affidavits of probable cause filed at Judge John Hovan’s office on July 11 and 12. But it is the source of the alcohol that was consumed by the majority of the teens that is garnering the most attention.

On July 11, State Police at Wyoming issued a press release to news outlets, announcing the impending arrests of party participants Joshua Daniel Harris, 18, Tunkhannock, and Casey Joseph McClain, 18, Meshoppen.

Each was charged with corruption of minors, tampering with physical evidence, furnishing brewed beverages to minors, and general purchase, consumption, possession, and transportation of brewed beverages as minors.

Numerous interviews of the suspects and other people at the party were conducted throughout May. Most suggested that they were invited to the party by Harris, who allegedly had with him a bag of pot and a bag of psychedelic mushrooms. McClain was fingered by several of the participants as the person who brought the beer to the party, having arrived in a truck with one of the unnamed juveniles. One of the youths who was interviewed related that he asked McClain where he got the beer and was told, “My mom got it.”

Christine McClain, 47, Meshoppen, told police that, on the day of the party, her son had asked her if she intended to get a case of beer for herself, to which she answered affirmatively. He gave her cash and asked her to also pick up several cases for him, which she assumed he would consume with friends while they were fishing.

After she bought the beer at Plaza Beverage, she met Casey in the parking lot of Thomas’s Supermarket but did not want to make the exchange there. They drove to the parking lot of Mulligan Printing on Mile Road in Tunkhannock Township, where, according to police, Mrs. McClain handed over the beer to her son and a friend that she could not see because the windows of the truck her son was driving were tinted.

She told police that she felt comfortable buying beer for her son because she thought that he was going to stay on the property. Christine McClain was charged with corruption of minors and furnishing brewed beverages to minors.

Harris and Casey McClain admitted to police that, immediately following the UTV accident, they threw the remaining beer into the fire and into the nearby woods. Harris drove the UTV, which belonged to his father, to their home on Vago Road and walked back to the scene of the incident.

The primary difference between the charges incurred by Mrs. McClain and the teens is that she is charged only for providing the beer to her son and one friend. Harris and her son have 20 counts each against them for making the beer accessible to everyone else at the party.

Each will face the judge again in a preliminary hearing scheduled for Thursday, July 18. 

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