Mother Acquitted of Homicide

By Carl Hessler Jr. chessler@pottsmerc.com @MontcoCourtNews on Twitter Authorities alleged Williams-Earle was traveling west on Morris Avenue in a red 2010 Toyota Prius when she failed to stop at a stop sign and struck a white Chevrolet Express van operated by Staats, who was traveling southbound on Spring Mill Road and attempting to turn left onto eastbound Morris Avenue. The impact caused Staats’ Valley Forge Flower Company van to flip over and Staats was partially ejected and pinned beneath the vehicle, according to the criminal complaint filed by Lower Merion Police Officer Michael Sullivan. Staats was pronounced dead at the scene. Prosecutors alleged Williams-Earle drank Champagne and then whiskey mixed with soda prior to the mid-morning crash. Authorities alleged they found a plastic cup that smelled of alcohol in the woman’s vehicle after the crash but there was not enough substance in it to analyze. But Williams-Earle, who at the time of the fatal crash was a Latin teacher at Interboro High School, testified she did not feel impaired while driving. Williams-Earle claimed her attention was diverted from the roadway while she turned to reach for cheese crackers to give to her son, who was fussy and seated in a car seat behind her. Williams-Earle claimed she remembered nothing else about the crash. “I just looked back for two seconds. I was looking over my shoulder for the cheese puffs,” Williams-Earle testified, adding she wanted to calm her child. “It was the mom instinct.” Williams-Earle said she was “hysterical” when she learned Staats was killed in the crash. “I couldn’t even imagine how horribly the family must be feeling,” Williams-Earle testified, adding she thinks about Staats every day. Police alleged they spoke to Williams-Earle at the scene and detected a “strong odor of an alcoholic beverage” on her and noticed her eyes were bloodshot and her speech was slightly slurred, according to the arrest affidavit. Later, at a hospital, Williams-Earle allegedly advised police that she had taken the prescription drug Ativan, a sedative, the night before and felt “dizzy” that morning, according to the criminal complaint. She also told police that a friend told her that alcohol reverses the effect of that sedative so she drank some leftover Champagne at some point prior to her trip that morning, according to the criminal complaint. Williams-Earle testified she doesn’t remember making those statements to police.