WILKES-BARRE — Multiple portraits of vehicular homicide suspect Tyler Duda emerged Monday during a hearing on whether his case should be moved to juvenile court.
The 17-year-old, accused of causing the crash that killed a Nanticoke man last summer, sat quietly before Luzerne County Judge Lesa Gelb, fidgeting occasionally as a social worker described him as a young man who suffers from depression, mood disorders and poor impulse control, who struggled with the early loss of his biological father and who reportedly told a psychologist last fall that ending up in jail “was probably the best thing that ever happened to him.”
But cross-examination and other testimony, including that of a parole officer, portrayed a Duda as a troubled and rebellious youth whose school record was pockmarked by poor grades and disciplinary issues, who earlier landed himself in juvenile court following a fight with his mother, who allegedly was cited for underage drinking — violating a probationary curfew in the process — and who repeatedly has told examiners that he does not need therapy.
After an all-day hearing Monday, Gelb will continue to hear testimony when proceedings resume this morning.
Duda was 16 at the time of the July 5 incident that left Nicholas Zurilla, 59, dead after he was struck by an SUV outside his home at 340 W. Union St.
Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis has said Duda, of Kingston Township, took his mother’s 2013 Ford Edge without her knowledge and was out joy riding with Donald Kinney Jr., 16, in Nanticoke on the way to visit a female friend.
A state police reconstruction of the crash alleges Duda was traveling in excess of 70 mph when he struck Zurilla, arrest papers say. The speed limit on West Union Street is 25 mph.
Duda has pleaded not guilty to charges of homicide by vehicle, third-degree murder, accidents involving death, driving without a license, speeding, reckless driving and failing to stay in lane.
He was released to a juvenile detention facility on Feb. 8 when Gelb modified his $1 million bail to unsecured.
Duda’s lawyers, Luzerne County First Assistant Public Defender Demetrius Fannick and Public Defender Cheryl A. Sobeski-Reedy, have said the juvenile justice system will provide treatment, rehabilitation and supervision for which Duda is a proper candidate because of his age, mental capacity, maturity level and adolescent decision-making abilities.
Assistant District Attorneys Mamie Phillips and Stephen Lentz appeared for the prosecution.