A Cranberry woman is facing multiple charges in the death of her boyfriend, officials report. Twenty-eight-year-old Jessica Ann Royall sped down a half-mile of residential streets with her boyfriend, 27-year-old Ryan Minett, clinging to the luggage rack on the driver’s side rear of the SUV. Minett screamed to onlookers to call 911 until he fell off the vehicle. His body traveled 53 feet before hitting a light post.
Minett died from his injuries Saturday night, March 24, after being taken to UPMC Presbyterian in critical condition. The incident happened at about 4:30 in the afternoon the day before.
Jessica Ann Royall is currently in the Butler County Jail. She is charged with drunk driving, felony assault, and homicide.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office listed the cause of Minett’s death to be blunt force trauma to the head, torso, and extremities, and ruled it a homicide.
This was not the first time Royall has been in trouble with her vehicle. She was to have attended a preliminary hearing on March 26th for an incident last year in which she was charged with reckless driving and causing a crash that resulted in injury.
In this latest incident, nine eyewitnesses told police that they watched Royal speed through a neighborhood in Cranberry, her tires squealing. Eyewitnesses reported that Minett hung on to the luggage rack and had his knees pressed to the side of the vehicle, a 2005 Buick Rendezvous. He lost his grip at the intersection of Little Pine Road and Cross Creek Drive, and his body flew off the vehicle.
Witnesses called 911. The unconscious Minett was found with “massive trauma to his head and torso.” He was transported by helicopter to UPMC Presbyterian. He underwent surgery but died at 5:52 pm the next day.
Police found Royall at her home. She was glassy-eyed and smelled of alcohol. She was unable to perform field sobriety tests and told police different stories as to the incident. She also said she had stopped at least four times to allow Minett to let go, something witnesses never saw.
Royall’s driver’s license was under suspension at the time of the incident.
Additional charges levied against Royall include aggravated assault by vehicle while under the influence; reckless endangerment; careless driving; running a stop sign; driving with an expired license; reckless driving; and aggravated assault by vehicle.
Royall has two previous convictions on her record, both from 2016. Both were misdemeanor drug charges; one was in Allegheny County, and one was in Westmoreland County. She received sentences of one year of probation for one case and three months in jail for the other.
Ms. Royall faces some stiff penalties for her actions. Just the reckless/careless driving charges come with penalties of at least $200 in fines and 90 days in jail. The driving under the influence with homicide charges come with fines of up to $25,000 and up to 10 years in prison. If she is convicted, Ms. Royall may find herself in a far worse way than she was the day she drove off with her boyfriend hanging on to her car.
There are defenses that a good Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney can use in this case, despite Ms. Royall’s previous record. When she appeared in court, her attorney said she had been fleeing because she feared for her life. It turns out she and the victim may have had a tumultuous relationship.
There are other defenses that may be available to her, as well, depending on the details of the case, but it might also behoove her to take a plea deal. She has been charged with several things, and convictions for all those charges can add up to a lot of fines and jail time. It’s possible for her to plead guilty to one of the lesser charges and get the big ones dismissed.
There is some good news that has come out of this tragedy. The victim’s family made sure that one of his kidneys was donated to his childhood friend, who had been on a waitlist for over a year.
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