Not Guilty Verdict In Hit And Run Trial

WILKES-BARRE — A judge has issued a not guilty verdict in the trial of a woman accused in a hit-and-run death nearly six years ago.

The deadly crash happened at the intersection of Wyoming Avenue and Pierce Street in Kingston in August 2008.

Police say it was there that Megan Panowicz hit Sharon Shaughnessy with her car.

She was the first of three drivers to hit the victim.

A judge ruled that despite Panowicz’s confession, she’s not guilty

Father and daughter shared a hug and a pat on the back after the verdict.

Panowicz told police she hit the woman at the intersection with Pierce Street, pulled over, tried to call 911, saw two other cars hit the woman, and then drove off.

She turned herself in the next day with her father who is a lawyer representing her.

He continued to represent Panowicz at the trial but wouldn’t comment after the verdict.

Sharon Shaughenessy’s sister spoke with Newswatch 16.

“I’m OK with the verdict. I had made peace that it was a traumatic something to go through, and I do feel for her,” said Brenda Jurchak.

At the trial in front of a judge, Panowicz testified in her own defense saying she was in shock when the crash happened.

She said, “I lost my ability to think. I lost my ability to determine what’s right and wrong.”

She also admitted to having suicidal thoughts after the crash.

Panowicz said she’s been to counseling and has taken medications.

In closing arguments, her father stated it was still unclear whether it was the impact from Panowicz’s car or the other drivers that killed the victim.

He argued Panowicz did stop and turned herself in the next day.

Prosecutors from the state attorney general’s office argued that her turning herself in “was a self-interested act of damage control” and that she never called 911 and waited to go to the police.

In the end, the judge sided with the defense.

“Time heals all pain, and that’s what it did for me anyway. It healed and today was closure for that healing and now we want to let her rest in peace,” Jurchak added.

The other two drivers involved in this hit and run testified on Tuesday.

The second driver to hit Shaughnessey was never charged. She stayed at the scene.

The third driver took a guilty plea last year. She was fined and had her license suspended.

24 comments

  • Solomon Grundy

    Sounds like a classic case of daddy knowing judge…Luzerne County corruption at its best…and I dont buy her reason why she left…Dont hand me traumatized…Lets try INTOXICATED!!!…Why leave the scene if nothing to hide…Driving 101 says you stop when invoilved with an accident…RIDICULOUS!!!….The fix was in on this one…These people think everyone is stupid…scum bag attorneys

  • Jim

    So you would rather this young woman have her life ruined over an accident and a bad decision? Things happens, that is life, what justice would have been served by throwing her to the wolves? None. The victim’s family has found peace and closure, it was a tragic accident.

  • Me

    Sure sounds like daddy knows the judge on a personal level.

    This is the corruption in Pa that just will never go away.
    People getting away with so much crap anymore because “daddy can get me out of it”

    I can’t think clear all the time either. But that doesn’t stop me from helping someone at an accident. She has no regard for human life and she proved it. Smash into someone and take off ,….she must have learned that in the ghetto of hazleton. That’s what they do there.
    Burn stop signs because they can’t read the English “stop” word !! Then plow into someone at 60 mph in a 25mph zone. Then get out of the car and run so that they don’t get deported. I really hate what my country has become. Maybe I’ll jump the fence and run to Mexico. That place should be emptied out by now.

  • George Masden

    Let’s hope the Shaughnessey family finds a lawyer to take this to civil court and go after any assets the princess and daddy have. If they haven’t already transferred it to others in the past SIX years. That’s the way they had to get to the innocent OJ.
    It should be easy enough to find who the judge was by going through public court records, if any ‘news’ station has the fortitude to do so. Certainly sounds like there is a cozy relationship between judge and daddy attorney.
    I think the state prosecutor should hang their head in shame with an outcome such as this. A confession by the accused turns into a ‘not guilty’ of anything??? Great Job!!!
    The ‘justice’ system of NE PA continues as it has for years. Probably shouldn’t be surprised by stories like this anymore.
    Hopefully a national news program will investigate this to a greater extent and press for more answers than what I expect from anybody locally.
    What’s that saying about Karma???

  • Mad In Hazleton

    Okay I have to make another comment after seeing this story last night…….so this Megan Panowicz chick is driving down the street hits that poor women, and then takes off..2 more people hit this women 1 stopped and wasn’t charged the other women also fined and had her license suspended…..now his Megan Panowicz runs home to daddy who just happens to be a lawyer, hum sounds to me like this judge did daddy lawyer a favor…..if I was the 3rd women who was fines and had my license suspended I’d be pissed….she comes forward right after the crash this megan twit runs home to daddy and goes free….yeap this judge did daddy lawyer a favor, and just told everybody it’s okay to hit a human and run……………I hope this Megan Panowicz has nothing but bad luck the rest of her life.

  • Abe

    Why is ” the judge” only identified as “the judge” in all of channel 16 news stories. Something smells rotten hear. Can the judge remain unknown with all the decisions? Come on Laura explain it or identify the judge.

  • skay n the maybees

    the deal went to the other two drivers and went no holds barred against the only one who at least stoped and confronted her morals and turned herself in .the powers that be screwed this one all up from the get-go.

  • CrazyLarry (@Skyhawk442)

    If it was a Black person, or an ugly person or just a low income person, they would be gone. No questions asked. Now how they know she wasn’t drunk, and left the scene to sober up??? She left the scene, she is Guilty Period! The Law states, you never leave the scene of an accident. It doesn’t matter how many ran over the lady, it matters who takes the responsibility for their actions. It’s stated up top, she was the ‘FIRST’ person to hit this lady. It doesn’t matter who hit the Lady afterwards, it matters who left the scene of a crime Period! This Woman driver should have control of her car at all times, and know what is around her at all times. I see it’s another case of Judge don’t know how to Judge. This lady isn’t going to RIP, cause the one that is Guilty, is walking away without a stitch! Now i know i can leave a scene of a murder. No Crap!

  • Bob

    Luzerne County justice at its finest…….. No loss of driving privileges, no community service, no justice for Sharon. I guess the proposed Kevin’s law, where little Kevin Miller killed by a Thomas Letteer shouldn’t even be considered in future hit and runs. Justice for one, No justice for the other.

  • Rob

    This verdict has to be the worst verdict next to the OJ Simpson trial. What makes me say this is OJ never admitted to a crime. This woman admits she hit the victim admits to leaving the scene and the judge says not guilty. Horrible verdict!

  • Just wondering

    This story doesn’t make any sense… According to the above witness some hit her before the 3 other cars hit her… So question is where is the first person that hit her?
    Who covered her with a blanket before the 3 other cars ran her over? Why didn’t the person that hit her in the first place or the person that covered her get charged? They could have prevented her from getting hit 3 other times…

  • Snshn

    Sorry, I don’t agree with the verdict.
    In my opinion she shouldn’t have left the scene in the first place.
    Her “inability to think” was probably due to the fact that she was under the influence of something, whether alcohol or a drug.
    That, I believe is why she’d waited until the next day to turn herself in. Two other people had stopped and done the right thing. Stayed with the victim!!
    I personally think she knew Exactly what she was doing.
    I mean seriously, look how long it’s taken for her to even go to trial.

  • B. G.

    I witnessed the whole thing. That poor lady was lying in the middle of the road. She didn’t jump in front of her. She was initially hit by a driver. That led to the victim laying in the road. Then three cars proceeded to run her right over. Two of then immediately pulled over. This lady took off. The driver of the vehicle I was in attempted to go after her but she made attempt to flee and he couldn’t catch her. Sad to see her get off free.

  • Mad In Hazleton

    I’m sorry this is just sending a message to everyone that it’s okay to hit a human and run…granted this women that she hit ran in front of her, but you just stop and you stay there till the police arrive. this women should have done some jail time 6 month or a year. not off scott free

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