BELLEFONTE — A Huntingdon County woman “huffed” aerosol in her car with her infant son in the back seat before crashing and badly injuring the child, a judge ruled Thursday.
Centre County Judge Jonathan Grine found Julie Dick-Carson, 39, guilty on all charges, including a felony count of aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI, stemming from the July 2011 crash in College Township.
Prosecutors said Dick-Carson was under the influence of a chemical found in pressurized air-dusters at the time of the crash.
Emergency personnel responding to the scene found a can of Ultra Duster between her legs.
Police said Dick-Carson had just purchased the cleaner at Walmart on Benner Pike. She was apparently headed to the nearby McDonald’s when the crash occurred.
She never made it to the restaurant. Instead, her vehicle crossed five lanes of traffic on East College Avenue, left the roadway, became airborne and plunged 21 feet onto the bank of Spring Creek.
Dick-Carson was flown to Altoona Hospital, where a blood test was positive for difluoroethane, a chemical found in the cleaner.
Her 13-month-old son was taken to Mount Nittany Medical Center, and was later flown to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville for treatment of a skull fracture and other injuries.
David Henry, an emergency room doctor at Mount Nittany, testified Thursday that the boy arrived at the hospital still in his car seat, “pale and whimpering.”
“He didn’t look very well,” Henry said. “I was concerned about him.”
Dick-Carson testified on her own behalf, maintaining her innocence and saying she was using the aerosol can to clean the dashboard of her car.
“I didn’t realize it would just take over like it did,” she said, becoming emotional on the stand.
Her attorney, James Bryant, argued the woman suffers from neurological problems and is prone to fainting.
Bryant, however, rested his case before calling any medical experts. He instead pointed to his client’s testimony and a note in her high school yearbook that apparently made reference to fainting.
Medical experts called by Assistant District Attorney Crystal Hundt, who prosecuted the case, questioned whether the 2011 crash could have been caused by other medical issues, and instead pointed to the difluoroethane found in her blood hours later.
State College police Officer Robert Keen testified Dick-Carson’s vehicle was traveling 53 mph when it left the road. She made no attempts to slow down or to avoid the crash, Keen said.
The trial, which was scheduled for two days, wrapped up Thursday afternoon after just one day. It was originally set for a jury trial, but Dick-Carson waived that right.
In addition to the felony, Grine found her guilty of misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child, recklessly endangering another person, and DUI, and three summary offenses.
Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter