Man gets 13-26 years for crash that killed Villanova student

Donnie Sayers was sentenced immediately after the plea.
Donnie Sayers was sentenced immediately after the plea.
Posted: May 21, 2011

Having rejected a plea agreement in a car accident that killed a Villanova University student, Donnie Sayers was awaiting jury selection Friday when he changed his mind.

Sayers, who had turned down an offer of 12 to 25 years in January, pleaded Friday to homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, aggravated assault, theft, and related charges. He was immediately sentenced to 13 to 26 years prison by Common Pleas Court Judge Frank T. Hazel

Sayers, 29, of Bryn Mawr, faced 41 to 82 years under the sentencing guidelines if a jury had found him guilty.

On Friday, during jury selection, Sayers, who has a lengthy criminal history, had a change of heart and accepted the new plea, which adds a year to the sentence he rejected.

In September, Sayers was driving a stolen Range Rover at over 100 m.p.h. trying to elude police when he slammed into a Volkswagen Jetta carrying two Villanova students.

Daniel Giletta, 21, a senior and National Honor Society member from Wyckoff, N.J., was killed. Frank "Patrick" DiChiara, 22, of Toms River, N.J., Giletta's roommate and a junior, suffered a traumatic brain injury and was hospitalized for months.

The impact knocked the engine out of the silver Jetta and flipped it end over end into a stone wall. Sayers, who was not seriously injured, ran off.

Using a palm print on the steering wheel, a fingerprint on the rear window, and a snapshot on a cellphone, police initially arrested Kenneth Woods, 21, of West Philadelphia.

Woods was not involved in the accident, but led police to Sayers, who told investigators he was high on PCP and beer at the time of the crash.

The victim's families were not in court for jury selection.

Hazel read part of a statement that Bernard Giletta wrote April 26, on what would have been his son's 22d birthday.

Daniel's "life was cut too short and I am devastated by his passing. Now every holiday, birthday, Father's/Mother's Day is spent visiting and praying at his grave," it read.


Contact staff writer Mari A. Schaefer at 610-892-9149, mschaefer@phillynews.com, or @MariSchaefer on Twitter.

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