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Senavitis placed on parole for DUI

Published May 18. 2010 05:00PM

Thomas Senavitis, 46, of Towamensing Township, yesterday was sentenced to probation and time already served in prison for his involvement in an accident which claimed the life of Sen. James J. Rhoades.

President Judge Ronald E. Vican sentenced Senavitis to 23 months of probation and the 300 days he has already served in prison. He also must pay a $1,000 fine, have his license suspended for one year, and take a highway traffic safety course.

The head-on crash happened on Oct. 17, 2008, on Route 209 in Polk Township, Monroe County. Mary Rhoades, wife of the state senator, was a passenger in the car, and Senavitis, were both critically injured in the accident but have recovered.

Rhoades, a seven-term Republican from Mahanoy City, was pronounced dead at Lehigh Valley Hospital, Salisbury Township, the morning after the crash. He never regained consciousness.

Initially, Senavitis faced 21 different charges, including homicide by vehicle while driving while under the influence, aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI, and homicide by vehicle.

A jury cleared Senavitis of the most serious charges on March 15, but found him guilty of DUI incapable of safe driving, DUI greater than .03 percent, and recklessly endangering another person.

After sentencing, Senavitis walked past a group of reporters and when asked for reaction about his sentence, he said he hasn't thought about it, yet.

His wife, Dolores, remarked, "He's back home with me and that's the best part. I don't want to lose him again."

Senavitis was initially charged with homicide by vehicle and the rest of the charges on Jan. 14. He was incarcerated in lieu of $25,000 bail, and placed in Monroe County Prison.

He eventually posted the bail, but then had it revoked when he was accused of showing up drunk at his wife's court proceedings for unrelated charges in Carbon County.

The trial against Senavitis was held over three days. The jury took about five hours and 20 minutes to reach its verdict, weighing conflicting accounts of two accident reconstruction experts.

Cpl. Doug Shook of the Fern Ridge barracks of the Pennsylvania State Police had testified that his reconstruction showed the accident occurred in the lane of Route 209 occupied by the Rhoades' vehicle.

This was disputed by Kevin Theriault of Chesterfield, Va., an accident reconstruction expert hired by Mrs. Senavitis. He said the accident occurred in the southbound lane of traffic.

Rhoades was northbound when the accident happened, en route to Pleasant Valley High School where he was to be honored during the halftime of a football game for his contributions to education.

The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Colleen Mancuso, said after the trial that she was disappointed with the verdict, adding, "It's obvious he was drunk."

She said she didn't feel Theriault was "very credible," adding that he disregarded some of the evidence in reaching his conclusions.

The Rhoades family, which was present for the duration of the trial, did not attend sentencing.

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