W.Va. man formally arraigned in 2011 fatal crash

February 5, 2013

A West Virginia man was formally arraigned Tuesday on charges stemming from a 2011 fatal crash near the south junction of Interstates 70 and 79 in South Strabane Township.

John W. Cruse II, 26, of Westover, W.Va., was arraigned before Washington County Judge Katherine Emery and pleaded not guilty to charges of homicide by vehicle, failure to drive at a safe speed and reckless driving. He was charged following the March 4, 2011, crash that killed 49-year-old Cynthia A. Bittengle of St. Clairsville, Ohio.

Cruse was driving behind Bittengle as both traveled north in the left, northbound lane of I-79. His vehicle struck her sport utility vehicle in the right rear after he reportedly failed to see she had slowed for traffic. The impact caused her SUV to travel sideways through the grassy median and barrel-roll across both southbound lanes.

Police said Bittengle was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected while the vehicle was rolling. She was pronounced dead at the scene of multiple injures.

Cruse was not injured in the crash, which closed both southbound lanes of the interstate for three hours. However, his vehicle had heavy front-end damage, and it had to be towed from the scene.

A pretrial conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. March 1 before Emery. Cruse remains free on $100,000 bond.

Andy McNeil has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2011 as a general assignment reporter. He covers courts and education, and also serves as a photographer and videographer. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University, The Behrend College, with a degree in English; Duquense University with a post-baccalaureate paralegal certificate, and Point Park University with a graduate degree in journalism and mass communication.

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