Westmoreland County Prison inmate ordered to stand trial in Dec. 4 carjacking
A 65-year-old West Leechburg woman testified Friday she initially couldn’t feel any pain after being beaten outside the Westmoreland County Prison in Hempfield Dec. 4 after a just-released inmate carjacked her vehicle and sped away with her infant grandson still strapped in the backseat.
“He punched me on the right side of my face, neck, shoulder and back to get me out the door. I screamed and told him I just wanted to get my grandson out of his seat, but he just backed up and was gone just like that,” an emotional Dolores Pearlman testified before Hempfield District Judge Mark Mansour.
“I didn’t even feel any pain … I was so worried about the baby,” Pearlman said.
Based on Pearlman’s testimony, the testimony of the baby’s mother, Dolores Scratchard, county Det. Richard Kranitz and state police Trooper Adam Schrock, the inmate, Thomas Lee Williams, 36, of Philadelphia, was ordered to stand trial on multiple criminal charges including kidnapping, robbery of a vehicle and two counts each of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.
Mansour also found sufficient evidence was presented at the hearing for driving under the influence of a controlled substance, driving without a license
Schrock testified blood tests showed Williams was under the influence of anxiety medication, marijuana and opioids when he assaulted Pearlman and fled with the baby, 14-month-old Adrian Pearlman, in the car.
Williams drove toward Youngwood where he crashed about two miles away, and then ran into the nearby woods leaving Adrian strapped in the car.
Scratchard tearfully testified her son was initially treated at Excela Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg, but was transferred to UPMC Children’s Hospital, where he was kept “for nearly two days” for observation.
“He had marks on his collarbone, down his neck and bruises on the shin. The doctors told me the marks on his neck were from the seatbelt as a result of the accident,” Scratchard said.
“When I left him to go visit (Adrian’s) dad in the prison, he was sleeping in the car seat,” she told Mansour under questioning by assistant district attorney Adam Barr.
Kranitz told Mansour that county park police officer Thomas Fitzgerald and he interviewed Williams shortly after he was apprehended in nearby woods with the assistance of a K-9.
“He denied being under the influence and he said he understood what had occurred,” Kranitz quoted Williams as saying.
“He told us there was no excuse for his actions. He said he just blacked out,” Kranitz said.
“Mr. Williams said he had left the prison, and saw (Pearlman’s car) was running and he took the opportunity to take it and said ‘(Pearlman) began fighting with me’,” Kranitz said.
“He said he made a bad choice … it was a dumb choice. But he said he needed transportation,” Kranitz said.
Kranitz said that Williams told investigators he hoped to drive to the train station in Greensburg and return to Philadelphia.
Schrock said when police caught up with Williams after crashing the car “he openly expressed erratic behavior.”
Schrock said that Williams told state police investigators in an interview that he was under the influence of crack cocaine, heroin and pills.”
Mansour remanded Williams to the county prison to await trial on $250,000 bail.
Prison officials reported that Williams had only been locked up “for one day” after being arrested on a bench warrant related to a South Greensburg drug-dealing conviction. Inmates who are brought in on pre-trial detainers are not subjected to a strip search or the new body scan machine, which may have possibly detected whether he was carrying contraband, Warden John Walton said.
After the hearing, Williams admitted to reporters he was crying during portions of the victims’ testimony.
“I was very upset. I’m very regretful … I was under the influence of the medication,” he said.
“I didn’t mean to do that,” Williams said.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.