Patchel Gets Jail Term In Hit-run Deaths

Posted: January 28, 1989

He said he was sorry for running over two North Carolina church women.

He admitted he was "morally responsible" for fleeing as far from the Delaware County death scene as his mangled car could take him.

He even said he would have liked to have been friends with the two gospel singers he ran down as they crossed Route 1 near the Granite Run Mall.

But all the expressions of remorse, claims of mental stress and pleas for probation didn't save former Media Borough Solicitor Paul L. Patchel from a jail term when a Delaware County judge yesterday dished out the punishment for the hit-and-run deaths.

As relatives of the dead women sobbed amid the more than 100 Patchel family members and friends in the Media courtroom, Judge Melvin G. Levy ordered the lawyer jailed for from 23 months to five years and fined him $2,155.

"This case is one which cries out for the imposition of a jail sentence," said the stern-faced judge. "If respect for the law is to have any effect on our community, the defendant must be incarcerated."

Patchel, 37, standing with his hands folded in front of him, dropped his head and clenched his fist. He was allowed to remain free on $15,000 bail while appealing his conviction to state Superior Court.

When the hearing adjourned, Patchel embraced his mother, who was seated in the front row, and shook hands and hugged supporters, who formed a long line inside the courtroom. He had a smile on his face.

His lawyer, John M. Gallagher Jr., called the sentence "very stern," but said Patchel was prepared for worse. The maximum is 20 years.

Patchel, a prominent figure in local Democratic politics who his supporters said had devoted his life to helping his community, killed gospel singers Hazel B. Fox, 52, and Ruth Wright, 60, as they crossed the highway walking toward their motel June 11. Both died instantly. Then the lawyer drove his wrecked Oldsmobile across the state line into Delaware, where it broke down, and ripped off the license plate. He surrendered two days later.

William Fox Jr., son of one of the dead women, told the judge that Patchel ''should get the maximum." Other family members, in letters to the judge and conversations with the prosecutor, agreed.

After the sentencing, Fox said he was "pretty well satisfied." He added: ''There's nothing that will bring back our parents, but I'm glad he didn't get off with just probation."

Patchel yesterday pleaded for probation and repeated his contention that he never saw the women he struck at 60 mph. A psychologist also repeated the story that Patchel was depressed, tired and suffering from post-traumatic stress when he fled the scene.

Levy, however, was unswayed. "There was no justification or excuse" for Patchel's behavior, he said.

Patchel, in solomn remarks to the judge, said he learned all he could about the two dead women. He called them "kind and caring - people that I would have liked to have been friends with."

Patchel resigned his post as Media solicitor after he was arrested, but continues practicing law. As a result of the sentence, the state Supreme Court's Disciplinary Board will review his law license and impose punishment that can range from censure to disbarment.

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