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GANT: Franco Pleads Guilty in Homicide by Vehicle While DUI Case

CLEARFIELD, Pa. (GANT) – The trial for a Johnsonburg woman, who drove the wrong way on Interstate 80, causing a crash that killed a DuBois man while she was under the influence of drugs, ended in a guilty plea Thursday afternoon.

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State police testified that reports show Shara M. Franco, 35, was under the influence of methamphetamine and fentanyl when she sideswiped a tractor-trailer and then struck a second vehicle nearly head on, killing Ryan Muirhead, 43, on March 7, 2020 near mile-marker 99.4 in Sandy Township, Clearfield County.

Franco was originally charged with homicide by vehicle while DUI, homicide by vehicle, four counts of aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI, and four counts of aggravated assault by vehicle, all felonies, and misdemeanor counts of DUI, involuntary manslaughter and recklessly endangering another person.

She pleaded guilty Thursday to homicide by vehicle while DUI and two counts of aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI, all felonies, a misdemeanor count of DUI and some related summary offenses.

Franco is facing a minimum five years of incarceration with the maximum sentence up to the court. She’ll be scheduled for sentencing within 60 days.

According to testimony from arresting Trooper Seth Gould, two adult and one juvenile passengers in the second vehicle sustained serious, life-altering injuries in the crash.

Upon arrival at the scene, he heard a six-year-old juvenile screaming for her mom, and saw she had a serious facial laceration. She was bleeding profusely, he said.

Gould also heard a woman and man screaming for help from within the vehicle, and they were removed by mechanical means. All three passengers and Franco were flown from the scene.

The trooper said Franco had been traveling westbound in the eastbound lane when her Chevrolet truck struck a tractor-trailer, then a second vehicle nearly head on.

Gould was able to speak with Franco on-scene and she reportedly told him that she wasn’t the driver at the time of the crash, and was at a bus stop in Pittsburgh.

Even though she appeared to know she was in the back of an ambulance vehicle at the time, he said Franco still believed she was in Pittsburgh.

Interstate 80 was closed for several hours as a result of the crash, Gould said, noting it was a sunny March day and roadway conditions were dry and not a factor in the crash.

Trooper John Romeo of the Holidaysburg-based state police responded to UPMC Altoona at the request of Gould to obtain a legal blood draw from Franco.

Romeo said the phlebotomist had issues drawing a blood sample, and it was ultimately taken by a registered nurse through an IV.

He said Franco agreed to speak with him and admitted she’d “probably” have meth and Fentanyl in her system.

On Thursday, forensic toxicologist Jolene Bierly from NMS Labs confirmed that Franco’s blood was positive for methamphetamine, amphetamine, fentanyl and norfentanyl.

Coroner Kim Shaffer-Snyder said Muirhead was pronounced dead on-scene, and died from blunt force trauma to the head as a result of a motor vehicle crash.

District Attorney Ryan Sayers and First Assistant District Attorney Leanne Nedza prosecuted the case on behalf of the commonwealth. Franco was represented by defense attorney William A. Shaw Jr.

Clearfield County President Judge Fredric Ammerman presided over the case.

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