Press-Republican

October 3, 2012

Teen pleads guilty in friend's death

Admits role in wreck that killed friend, hurt another

By DENISE A. RAYMO
Press-Republican

---- — BRUSHTON — A teen with no license who smoked pot and crashed a car, which killed one passenger and hurt another, pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide in Franklin County Court.

Tanya Menke, 17, of Brushton admitted her actions led to the death of Brooke Lyon, 16, of Moira, who was killed in a one-car crash at the intersection of McGowan and Eddy roads in the Town of Brandon at about 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 7, 2011.

Menke also pleaded guilty to second-degree vehicular assault for the severe injuries suffered by a second passenger, Alexis Colette, 17, of Brushton.

All three were students at Brushton-Moira Central School.

MAYBE YOUTH OFFENDER

Menke is to be sentenced on Monday, Dec. 3, by County Court Judge Robert G. Main Jr. He is awaiting a pre-sentencing report from the County Probation Office before determining whether she should be granted youthful-offender status.

If she is, the courtroom would be closed to the media and spectators at sentencing, and her criminal record would be sealed.

Criminally negligent homicide and vehicular assault are felony counts, and each carries a possible sentence of one and one-third to four years in state prison that could either run concurrently or consecutively because there are two victims in the case.

DIDN’T STOP

Because Menke’s legal status is still being weighed, District Attorney Derek Champagne said “an eligible youthful offender” pleaded guilty to the two most-serious charges involved in the Dec. 7 crash.

The driver had only a learner’s permit, not a driver’s license and had smoked marijuana before getting behind the wheel of the 1999 Volkswagen Beetle, he said.

Menke was driving McGowan Road in thick fog but did not slow down, according to police. As she prepared to turn onto Eddy Road, she failed to stop at the stop sign, careened down an embankment and crashed into a tree.

Lyon was killed, and Collette and Menke were first taken to Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone, then transferred to Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington.

Some students riding Brushton-Moira School District buses home that day passed the crash site before rescue personnel arrived.

MANY CONDITIONS

Champagne said Lyon should not have been in the car because conditions of a New York state learner’s permit only allow people related to the driver to be in the vehicle.

The DA said he requested that the judge consider sentencing the driver to five years of probation with strict conditions similar to what are required of people convicted of felony-level driving while intoxicated.

And after consulting with Lyon’s family, Champagne is asking for extra conditions, including 500 hours of community service with participation in “meaningful education to high-school drivers in driver education about driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”

He is also asking that Menke have a 10 p.m. curfew the entire five-year term of probation and that she complete high school and then either obtain a full-time job or take at least 18 hours of college courses per semester.

‘ABSOLUTE TRAGEDY’

Champagne is also requesting that she have no learner’s permit or driver’s license during the five years and that she not be allowed to create or use a Facebook or MySpace account.

Menke would also be required, under his request, to participate once a year for five years in the county’s Victims Impact Panel and allow searches of her home to be conducted for the presence of drugs or alcohol.

Lyon, the daughter of Curt and Tanya Lyon of Moira, was a basketball and volleyball player and a member of the National Honor Society and the school’s Varsity Club.

Collette, who continues to recover from her injuries and has returned to school, played volleyball, and Menke was the basketball team’s scorekeeper and equipment manager.

Champagne said she was “very tearful and emotional” during her court appearance and that a handful of Lyon’s family members were there.

“There is no good outcome in this case,” the DA said. “This is a devastating tragedy to all parties involved.”

Champagne said it is also a “wake-up call” to young pot smokers to: “A, don’t do it. Or B, if you do do it, don’t drive a vehicle in any way.

“This is an absolute tragedy for the community and the county.”

Email Denise A. Raymo at: draymo@pressrepublican.com