Gruesome testimony presented of Officer Brian Lorenzo's highway death

Patrol Officer Brian Lorenzo
Patrol Officer Brian Lorenzo
Posted: September 28, 2012

THE DEBRIS FIELD created by the collision of a city police officer on a motorcycle and a drunk driver who been going the wrong way on July 8 "looked like a bomb had gone off on I-95," a state trooper said in court Wednesday.

The carnage described by Trooper Charles Burckhardt and video of the scene where Highway Patrol Officer Brian Lorenzo, 48, died instantly were too much for the officer's widow, Linda, who sobbed while being escorted from the preliminary hearing at the Criminal Justice Center.

The 2010 Audi driven by John Leck, 47, acted like a "high-speed guillotine" when it hit the officer head-on, tearing his abdomen open and severing his right leg, Burckhardt testified. Leck was ordered held for trial by Municipal Judge Teresa Carr Deni.

Leck, a debt collector from Levittown, is being held without bail and is charged with third-degree murder, homicide by vehicle, driving under the influence and related offenses. Deni set his formal arraignment for Oct. 17.

The defendant wore an orange jail jumpsuit and appeared to be in a mild stupor. He is on medication and is still recovering from crash-related injuries, said Michael K. Parlow, his defense attorney.

"We all know that this is an unfortunate case, but Mr. Leck did not intend for this to happen. He feels horrible," Parlow said after court.

"There is evidence that he was drunk and going the wrong way on 1-95," the attorney continued, "but there is no evidence that he was weaving, no evidence that he was going faster than anyone else."

Assistant District Attorney Jacqueline Coelho said motive is not an issue. "We only have to prove the evidence, and the evidence clearly shows that this was a horrific, terrible, tragic crime that occurred on 95," she said.

State Trooper Brendan Connor testified that Leck's blood-alcohol level of .218 made him too impaired to take a field-sobriety test or to drive safely. The legal limit is .08.

Connor arrived at the scene to find the Audi and motorcycle engulfed in flames. Lorenzo's remains had been thrown 21 feet from the point of impact and Leck was standing up holding onto this burning car, Connor said.

"He was grasping the car, he wouldn't let it go," said Connor, who told the court that Leck smelled of alcohol, looked glassy-eyed, spoke with a slur and had trouble balancing himself.

Lorenzo, a 23-year police veteran, was driving his department motorcycle home after his shift at the time of the 3:15 a.m. accident near the Cottman Avenue exit.

He was traveling northbound at 68 mph when Leck, traveling at 62 mph, struck him. Leck had been going the wrong way for about half a mile, Coelho said.


Contact Mensah M. Dean at deanm@phillynews.com or 215-568-8278. Follow him on Twitter @MensahDean.

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