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  • By: Kevin Leckerman, Esq.
  • Published: November 4, 2015
A man enjoying a car ride, leaning out with a bottle of wine in hand - Leckerman Law, LLC

It started as a perfectly fine day in April when a group of 21-year-olds from Lansdale went to Citizens Bank Park where they drank beer and liquor before and during the game when Phillies beat the Pirates, 3-2.

The perfect day soon turned tragic as hours later, one of the group members lay dead in Salford Township after being thrown from the backseat of a car that hit a utility pole. The member, identified as Ryan Petrille, was abandoned by two of his friends as they fled the scene, leaving his body behind. Details of the incident were revealed Monday by prosecutors in the opening arguments of a DUI homicide trial in Montgomery County.

23-year-old Sean Sperl was charged with driving under the influence, killing Petrille in the 2013 accident.

In a radio recording he gave to the police after the accident, Sperl said, “I’m drunk, and I crashed a car and possibly killed somebody.”

Sperl was taken to a hospital hours after the accident where his blood alcohol content came out to be at least 0.175, more than twice the legal limit.

However, Charles Mandracchia, the defense attorney told jurors that prosecutors do not have any proof that it was Sperl who was driving at the time and not a third person. The defense attorney also stated that Sperl got a concussion in the accident, so his memory was hazy.

The prosecutors laid out a different story altogether. They told the jurors that Sperl was driving his green Honda Civic at very high speed of at least 83 mph when he lost control around a sharp curve and hit a utility pole on Ridge Road.

Assistant District Attorney Richard Bradbury gave details, saying that the car split in half after hitting the pole and the front and back ends were flown in opposite directions, flying 100 feet away. Debris was scattered all across the roadway, including a bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey.

Trooper Stephen Dozier, who responded to the scene, stated, “I’ve never seen a worse crash.”

Police arrived at the scene after midnight, only to find Petrille dead at the scene. Sperl and another man in the car, 23-year-old Ryan Benner, were not there. Apparently, they climbed out of the front half of the car and left with the radio and headlights still on.

Benner was also present at the hearing Monday, who testified that the three of them were going home from the baseball game from another friend. He admitted that they drank beer and whiskey on the way. According to Benner, the three men got into Sperl’s car in Lansdale and planned to go to a strip club. He said he noticed Sperl driving at 100 mph as he sat in the front passenger seat, fastened his seat belt, and asked Sperl to slow down. He was also drunk that night, so his memory of the night was also hazy.

However, he mentioned that he remembered thinking that the car would not make it around the corner, where it actually crashed. He then remembered reaching into the backseat to check on Petrille but the backseat was no longer there. He also remembered pacing back and forth near Petrille’s bloodied body as he went into a state of shock, before he told Sperl that he was leaving.

“I just saw my best friend dead, and I didn’t want to be there anymore,” he said.

As he remembered the incident, Benner broke down in the courtroom. He buried his head in his hands and sobbed.

After he walked away from the scene, Benner flagged down a car and asked the driver to call his parents. He was later picked up by his father and then Benner called the police.

3 hours after the accident, Sperl knocked on the door of a nearby home, after he had woken up in a nearby shed. He was confused and asked if there had been a party there. He then asked the man who opened the door to call the police.

An audio recording of his call to the police was played for jurors in which Sperl rambles and tells troopers that his memory is unclear. He told them that he might have killed someone so they should take him to jail.

Two troopers responded to his call, and he told them “I feel like I crashed a car tonight. I’m not 100 percent sure of it.”

As Sperl’s trial began in the court Monday, he remained seated expressionless at the defense table.

The defense attorney insisted that the driver could have been Benner, even though investigators determined that Sperl was driving his car.

The trial is expected to last through Friday.

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