Trial set for Hazleton man accused of vehicular homicide charges

By Patrick Kernan - [email protected]
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WILKES-BARRE — A trial date has been set for next year for a man accused of causing the 2017 death of a 94-year-old woman while driving drunk.

Christopher Ecker, 30, Hazleton, is facing a count of vehicular homicide and drunken driving charges in connection with the death of Rose Marie Lombardo.

Ecker was originally scheduled to be arraigned on the charges this week, but court records show he waived his arraignment.

Luzerne County Judge William H. Amesbury filed an order Thursday, which scheduled Ecker’s trial for Jan. 22, 2019.

Ecker will be back in court for numerous court dates between now and then, with hearings scheduled for August and throughout November.

Lombardo’s family has also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Ecker in civil court.

According to the suit, Ecker drank numerous alcoholic beverages at Cusat’s Cafe in Hazleton on June 3, 2017, before going to the Barber Ford dealership. His blood-alcohol content was allegedly three times the legal limit.

At the dealership, Ecker took unsecured keys from the keyboard and took a 2014 Ford Mustang GT 5.0, the lawsuit states.

He allegedly took the car on Hazle Township Boulevard, where he crashed into a vehicle driven by Richard Palushock. Lombardo was Palushock’s passenger.

Palushock’s car spun out of control, striking a pole near the road. Lombardo was extricated from the car and pronounced dead at Lehigh Valley Hospital — Hazleton.

Barber Ford is also named as a defendant in the suit.

Court records show Ecker is currently free on $75,000 unsecured bail.

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By Patrick Kernan

[email protected]

Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan

Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan