Crime

Ruling OKs murder charge against Bellefonte woman involved in huffing crash

Danielle Packer can be charged with murder in the death of Matthew Snyder, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Packer, 22, of Bellefonte, was in court for her preliminary hearing in connection with the August 2012 fatal car crash that killed Snyder.

The crash occurred, witnesses said, after Packer and her boyfriend, Julian Shutak, huffed canned air cleaner in the parking lot at Wal-Mart on Benner Pike.

Cpl. Leigh Barrows, of the state police at Bedford, formerly of Rockview, said Packer demonstrated how she cupped her hand to spray and inhale the chemicals. She did that about 15 minutes before the crash. She did it again while stopped at the light on Shiloh Road. Then she turned the corner, drove down the road toward Bellefonte, and minutes later, her Chevrolet TrailBlazer crossed the center line, striking Snyder, 25, of Howard, while he was driving to work.

Public defender Deborah Lux argued that the most serious charge — murder — was not appropriate.

“There was no malice,” she said, pointing to that as a defining element of the crime. “Negligence, recklessness, but not malice.”

Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller was adamant that the murder charge was proper.

“It was absolutely foreseeable for her,” she said. “What is a more telling case than this? It’s not only foreseeable, it’s actually predictable. She was the instrument of death in this case.”

Parks Miller also took issue with Packer’s actions after the crash.

According to state police testimony, while emergency responders were attending to Snyder, Packer called her mother to come get a video game system and the cans of air cleaner from her car.

District Judge Leslie Dutchcot agreed with the district attorney.

“I do believe the required culpability elements have been met,” she said, allowing the charges.

Packer will head to trial on all counts, including third-degree murder, homicide by vehicle, aggravated assault, homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence, driving under the influence, involuntary manslaughter, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, sale or illegal use of certain solvents and noxious substances, and summary traffic offenses.

She remains in the Centre County Correctional Facility in lieu of $500,000 bail.

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