2018-01-11 / Front Page

Freeman Sentenced for Two Counts of Homicide by Vehicle

By Cain Chamberlin

Photo by Cain Chamberlin
Tyler J. Freeman, 20, is led out of the Bradford County Courthouse by a sheriff’s deputy on Monday afternoon following his sentencing. Freeman will serve a minimum of 11 months and 29 days and a maximum of 23 months and 29 days in county jail, followed by 96 months of supervised probation, for two counts of homicide by vehicle. Freeman was the driver of a pickup truck that hit a motorcycle head-on along Route 187 in Orwell Township on May 24, 2017, subsequently resulting in the deaths of David and Billie Jo Estelle of Rome. 
Photo by Cain Chamberlin Tyler J. Freeman, 20, is led out of the Bradford County Courthouse by a sheriff’s deputy on Monday afternoon following his sentencing. Freeman will serve a minimum of 11 months and 29 days and a maximum of 23 months and 29 days in county jail, followed by 96 months of supervised probation, for two counts of homicide by vehicle. Freeman was the driver of a pickup truck that hit a motorcycle head-on along Route 187 in Orwell Township on May 24, 2017, subsequently resulting in the deaths of David and Billie Jo Estelle of Rome. After pleading guilty to two counts of homicide following a May 24, 2017 crash in Orwell Township, Tyler J. Freeman has now been sentenced to serve between one and two years in jail followed by eight years of probation.

Freeman, 20, who was 19 at the time of the crash and living with his grandparents in Rome, was driving a Ford Ranger pickup truck that collided head-on with a motorcycle along Route 187 just before 9 p.m. that evening. As a result, married couple David L. Estelle, 48, and Billie Jo Estelle, 42, of Rome, lost their lives. 

Freeman had reportedly left his southbound lane in an attempt to pass another vehicle in a no-passing zone, veering directly into the path of the Estelles who were northbound.

David was pronounced dead at the scene, and Billie Jo Estelle remained in critical condition at Guthrie Robert Packer Hospital until she passed away two days afterward.

Freeman pled guilty to the pair of third-degree felonies of homicide by vehicle in November and appeared in Bradford County Court Monday afternoon before Judge Maureen Beirne for his official sentencing.

After reading a written apology to the victims’ families, stating, “Nothing I can say or do will make this better,” Freeman was sentenced to serve a minimum of 11 months and 29 days and a maximum of 23 months and 29 days in county jail, followed by 96 months of supervised probation. Beirne said Freeman will also pay a $4,000 fine plus the cost of prosecution as well as perform 120 hours of community service.

Freeman received 64 days toward time served.

While family members of the Estelles asked the judge to send Freeman to state prison for the maximum sentence, Beirne said she felt a state sentence would not help rehabilitate Freeman nor ease the pain suffered by the families of the victims.

It was noted that since the crash, Freeman has been involved in other criminal activity, being charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, theft from a motor vehicle, simple assault and harassment. Beirne said the simple assault and harassment charges are pending from an incident that occurred in Allegheny County while Freeman was out on bail.

“You’ve got your whole life in front of you and the opportunity to make things right, but you’ve gotten off to a really bad start,” Beirne said to Freeman.

Prosecutor in the case, District Attorney Dan Barrett, said depending on the outcome of those charges, Freeman could end up in state prison after serving his time in county jail.

Barrett had multiple family members of David and Billie Jo Estelle take the stand and speak about the hardships they’ve experienced since the crash.

David’s mother, Lucinda Estelle, held up a photo of her son and daughter-in-law sitting on the motorcycle they often rode together.

“This is what you saw that night before you crashed into them,” she said to Freeman. “Our grief is beyond words. No parent should have to bury their children.”

Billie Jo’s son, Jason Place, also brought a collection of family photos to show the court. He was angered to hear of Freeman’s criminal actions since the tragedy occurred.

“I just don’t understand how you can keep screwing up after taking my mom away,” said Place. “Even when it happened, you lied and said you swerved to miss a fox. At least own up to what you’ve done.”

In a non-custodial written statement following the crash, Freeman claimed he was traveling the speed limit when he observed an animal resembling a fox enter the roadway, which caused him to veer into the northbound lane to avoid it and subsequently hit Estelle’s motorcycle head-on.

However, the operator of the witness vehicle, who stated Freeman had approached her from behind at a high rate of speed, passed her using the northbound lane and collided with the motorcycle.

There was also another witness who saw the crash from her front porch. She told police Freeman was traveling at a high rate of speed when passing the vehicle.

“It’s time for Mr. Freeman to pay for the injustices he’s done and take time out to think about his actions,” said Barrett.

David’s father, David Estelle, Sr., said many of us have done “dumb things” in our youth, but he didn’t believe Freeman learned from his mistakes.

“You pled guilty to a speeding violation in Athens the morning of the crash and you still went out speeding again,” he said. “I honestly think you feel bad for yourself, not us.”

Barrett’s office was able to confirm Freeman has pled guilty to a speeding violation in Athens district court the day prior to the crash.

Judge Beirne noted Freeman would also undergo drug and alcohol treatment and said any violation of his future probation would result in immediate incarceration.

 

 

 

 

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