WEST CHESTER - The drunken driver who killed a woman in East Coventry earlier this year was sentenced to prison on Tuesday for committing vehicular homicide while intoxicated.
Jason H. Hunsicker, 30, of Collegeville, will spend four to 10 years in prison and pay the family of Barbara Melamed more than $10,000 in fines.
He pleaded no contest to the homicide charge, as well as charges of driving under the influ-ence, possession of a small amount of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
"I'm thankful this is over," said her mother, Marcia Melamed, after the sentencing. "I wasn't looking forward to this day."
Hunsicker apologized to the Melameds for the first time since the incident.
"I can only imagine what you think of me," Hunsicker said. "My family means everything to me, and I know how I would feel about anyone responsible for taking them away from me."
"Today is part of your healing process," he continued. "It is also part of my healing process. I know an apology would seem completely empty to you ... but I think about you and your family every minute."
After leaving the courtroom, Marcia Melamed and Hunsicker's parents had a tearful exchange that ended with a hug between the victim's and the defendant's mothers.
Barbara Melamed, 45 of Amity, was killed on Jan. 4 while traveling on Route 724 when Hunsicker's Ford F-150 pickup slammed into her car head-on.
Melamed had been traveling from Phoenixville Hospital, where her mother was receiving treatment, and returning to her mother's home to care for her dogs.
Hunsicker's blood alcohol level was .25 at the time of the accident. The legal limit is .08 percent.
Witness told police they had seen Hunsicker's truck swerve across the road's centerline at least 15 times.
Police also reported Hunsicker struck a telephone pole not long before it collided with Melamed's car. The impact from the first accident deployed the truck's airbags, but Hunsicker still fled the scene.
"Alcohol and drugs will create the most vile and despicable situations for the most decent people," Common Pleas Judge William P. Mahon said before delivering the sentence. "It is a tragedy for all involved."
Hunsicker was remanded to four to 10 years in a state corrections facility and fines that in-cluded $9,000 for Barbara Melamed's funeral expenses, $1,463 for damage to her car, and $500 for medical expenses.
He was also ordered to perform 500 hours of community service and serve one year of probation.
Hunsicker faced a maximum sentence of 13 years in prison and $33,000 in fines. The minimum term for vehicular homicide while drunk is three years.
Assistant District Attorney Ann Marie Wheatcraft asked the judge for more than the minimum.
"He was so intoxicated he left the scene of an accident (after hitting the telephone pole)," Wheatcraft said. "To me this is an aggravating factor and is an issue that needs to be ad-dressed with more severe punishment."
Afterwards the attorney said she was satisfied with the judge's decision.
The sentencing hearing began shortly before 2 p.m. before a courtroom packed with people and their attorneys, awaiting hearings as part of the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program. All of the people were there on DUI related offenses.
During the sentencing Hunsicker's attorney, Sean Cullen, made a motion to change his cli-ent's plea from guilty to no contest.
The pre-sentencing investigation had revealed Hunsicker had no memory of the incident.
"I remember arriving at the [bar] that evening and going inside ... and ordering a beer," Hunsicker told Mahon. Beyond that, he said he only knew what he had been told about the incident
Mahon stopped the proceedings for about an hour while Wheatcraft and Cullen re-negotiated the plea.
Marcia Melamed gave a brief statement during the statement during the hearing.
"I would like to think that something is done," Melamed said, "so that this doesn't happen to another family.