Driver accused of killing East Huntingdon pedestrian declines to testify at his trial

About an hour ago

During a predawn Christmas morning interrogation with police, Matthew Ramsay insisted he didn’t know he hit and killed a pedestrian hours earlier in East Hungtingdon.

Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Kevin Wheelden testified Thursday that Ramsay appeared sluggish, tired and spoke with slurred speech as he was questioned by police hours after 49-year-old Joseph Cummins was hit as he ran with his dog along Ruffsdale Alverton Road on Dec. 24, 2016.


Jurors heard a recording of the nearly hour-long police interrogation in which Ramsay claimed he did not realize he hit a pedestrian and insisted he returned to the crash scene five minutes later and saw no signs anyone had been injured.


“I really didn’t see anything. No blood, no person,” Ramsay told police.


The prosecution claims Ramsay purposely swerved back and forth across the road and into the oncoming side of the two-lane road just prior to the crash. Cummins was hit as he walked along the road facing what should have been oncoming traffic, police said.


Wheelden testified that during the interrogation Ramsay demonstrated to police how he turned his steering wheel to swerve across the road.


“I just do this sometimes,” Ramsay told police.


Ramsay declined to testify. Jurors will begin deliberations Friday after attorneys make closing arguments, Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher Feliciani said.


Ramsay, 31, of New Stanton, is charged with third-degree murder, vehicular homicide and other offenses. Prosecutors contend he drove while under the influence of drugs.


His interrogation with police took center stage during the trial’s second day. Ramsay told investigators had taken a dose of methadone for his heroin addiction shortly before 9 a.m. the morning of the crash and didn’t consume any other drugs until after he returned home in the afternoon and smoked marijuana. Prosecutors said Cummins was struck about 2:30 p.m..


Methadone, marijuana and Xanax, an antidepressant, were found in Ramsay’s system 15 hours after the crash, according to toxicology reports presented to the jury.


Forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht said that because there is no information available indicating exactly when Ramsay last consumed those drugs, he could not extrapolate the level of medication in his blood system at the time of the crash.


Prosecutors said medical records indicated Ramsay had been a methadone patient since January 2014. Marybeth Grundler, an administrator at the clinic where Ramsay received his drugs, said 13 times during the three years of his treatments he tested positive for taking Xanax, a medication for which he did not have a prescription.


Grundler said Ramsay’s last blood test at the clinic, taken two days before the fatal crash, found no traces of Xanax in his system.


Ramsay’s wife, who he married March 7, was the lone witness to testify for the defense. Lindsay Ramsay told jurors she saw her then live-in boyfriend take several pills just before police came to their home to question him about the crash.


“I do know it was Xanax, and he smoked some weed,” she testified.


Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, rcholodofsky@tribweb.com or via Twitter .