Driver in fatal Monroeville hit and run sentenced to one to two years in prison

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Fremont Mathias became a father when he was just 17.

By his family's accounts, he thrived in the role and now has three boys, ages 16, 11, and 7, whom he has coached in Little League and midget football and he worked hard to be there for them as they work their way through school.

But there's also another side of him: A man who repeatedly drove on a suspended license and got caught; a man who had an unlicensed gun with him during one of those stops; a man who, while driving on that suspended license, crossed the center line of a residential road in Monroeville on a summer Sunday morning last year, killing a 69-year-old man.

And a man who tested positive for cocaine use while awaiting the conclusion of his case on home electronic monitoring.

That man was sentenced to a mandatory term of one to two years in state prison Thursday, to be followed by five years of probation by Common Pleas Judge Philip A. Ignelzi, after pleading guilty in March to homicide by vehicle and related counts.

Mathias was driving a Ford F-150 pickup truck about 9 a.m. on June 30 when he crossed into oncoming traffic.

He collided head-on with Lawrence Matvey, 69, also of Monroeville, who was driving a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Immediately following the crash, Mathias told passers-by that he came upon the accident while looking for his dog and then left the scene.

Matvey died later at Forbes Hospital.

According to assistant district attorney Chelsie Pratt, Mathias went home and first asked his mother to take blame for the crash because she had a clean driving record. When she refused, Ms. Pratt continued, Mathias' wife, Heather, called 911 and claimed she had been involved.

Mathias was at their home when police came and took his wife away.

It wasn't until the next day that he took responsibility.

For her role lying to police, Heather Mathias also was charged and pleaded guilty Thursday to hindering apprehension, obstruction and making false reports. She was sentenced to one year of probation.

During Fremont Mathias' sentencing hearing, Ms. Pratt read a letter from Matvey's family, describing their love for him, and his role as a father, husband, grandfather and brother.

"Larry Matvey left his house that morning to go to the gym," they wrote. "A mile away from his home of 47 years he was killed. ... Larry was killed so close to home that we are reminded of our loss every day. He died for no apparent reason and no fault of his own."

But when it was time for the defendant's witnesses to testify, Mathias' family members not only attempted to mitigate his actions, but they also went so far as to attribute blame for the crash on Matvey because he was driving a motorcycle that day, instead of a car or truck.

"Motorcycles are dangerous vehicles, offering practically no protection in the event of a collision," wrote Mathias' mother-in-law, Mary Braun, in a letter read by Emily Yanovich, another family member. "At least some of the culpability should be taken upon the person who chose to drive a vehicle that can withstand absolutely no impact from a collision."

The family also criticized the Matveys for asking for a severe sentence.

"To insist on a lengthy and extensive punishment -- considering the damage it will inflict on another family with three young children -- is extreme and unwarranted," Ms. Yanovich read.

Owen Seman, Mathias' attorney, said there was no question his client acted irresponsibly.

But, he continued, "This is not an incident where Mr. Mathias had any criminal intent."

Ms. Pratt countered that Mathias had many chances that day to do something right -- from not driving in the first place, to taking responsibility for the accident, to stepping up when officers arrested his wife.

"Mr. Mathias had so many opportunities to do the right thing, and he ignored all of them," she said. "He shows no signs of wanting to curb his illegal behavior."

Paula Reed Ward:, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard. First Published June 5, 2014 2:17 PM

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