19-year-old Smithton man charged in girlfriend’s death in South Huntingdon crash
State police at Belle Vernon allege a Smithton man was drunk last year when his speeding car swerved off Turkeytown Road and struck two trees in South Huntingdon, killing his 18-year-old girlfriend.
Ryan J. Denitti, 19, was arraigned Monday on charges of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence of alcohol and related offenses in connection with the Oct. 26, 2014, accident.
Trooper Marc Ziegler said the passenger in Denitti’s 1998 Ford Contour, Mackenzie Marie Wyant, 18, of Herminie, died a day after the 4 a.m. accident. She was airlifted to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, police reports said.
Wyant graduated in June 2014 from Yough High School. She worked at Kerber’s Dairy in North Huntingdon.
Ziegler alleges that tests performed on Denitti at UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh showed his blood alcohol content was 0.15 percent. The legal blood alcohol limit for a driver younger than 21 is 0.02 percent in Pennsylvania.
Ziegler reported in court documents that Denitti was driving west on Turkeytown Road when he lost control on a curve and struck a large tree that was lying on the side of the road. The vehicle then went airborne and struck another tree, causing the car to roll over.
Denitti was airlifted to a UPMC hospital with multiple injuries.
Wyant was the daughter of Heather Ann Ritter of Herminie and Kris Lee Wyant and his wife, Tiffany, of Berlin in Somerset County.
Members of the Denitti family were present in the courtroom during his arraignment Monday. His grandmother wiped away tears as Rostraver District Judge Charles Christner set bond for Denitti at $50,000 unsecured.
Denitti told Christner that he has worked for his father’s heating and air conditioning business and had to withdraw as a student from Triangle Tech after the accident.
“I was unable to continue my responsibilities as a student because of the injuries in my accident,” Denitti said. “I do miscellaneous jobs and cut grass for different people.”
When asked if he opposed unsecured bond, meaning Denitti would be released, Ziegler did not object.
“He was very cooperative. … This was the first attempt to serve the warrant,” Ziegler said. “But a young female was killed, and I have to stand behind the victim at the fullest extent of the law. I’m here to back up the family of the victim of this crime.”
Ziegler agreed that Denitti seems ready to go forward with the process.
“I must let you know that with the homicide by vehicle while DUI charge there is a mandatory minimum sentence of three years,” Christner said to Denitti. “The faces in the crowd here … they’re familiar to me. I’ve had many associations with your father and your grandmother.”
Christner ruled that as a condition of the bond, Denitti is not to have contact with Wyant’s family.
Denitti’s preliminary hearing is set for Nov. 9 before Christner.
Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at [email protected] or 724-850-2860. Staff writer Jeremy Sellew contributed to this report.