Chaz Desalis of Cape May Court House, appears in Cape May County Superior Court to plead guilty to vehicular homicide. Desalis, 21, drove a car into a tree in the early morning of July 23, 2012, killing passenger, William Duhadway, 19, of Havertown, Pa.

Dale Gerhard

CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — A local man accepted a plea arrangement Friday that will send him to state prison for three years for the drunken driving death last summer of one of his friends.

Chaz Desalis, 22, of Cape May Court House, admitted to drinking in Atlantic City before driving off the Garden State Parkway and into the wooded median strip at milemarker 19 southbound.

The July 23 accident killed William Duhadway, 19, of Havertown, Pa., while Desalis and his brother Stephen Desalis were injured.

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Desalis, who will be sentenced in June, accepted a plea that includes vehicular homicide, driving while intoxicated and violating rules for a provisional driver’s license.

Members of the Duhadway family were in Judge Patricia Wild’s courtroom Friday but did not wish to comment in court or afterward to the media. Several family members were crying as they left the courtroom.

Desalis admitted his guilt in the case on questioning from his own attorney, John Tumelty. Desalis said he had been drinking in Atlantic City before the accident with Duhadway and his brother. He said he consumed three beers and two or three glasses of champagne.

“Did you smoke marijuana?” Tumelty asked.

“Yes,” Desalis replied, later admitting he was “under the influence” of alcohol and marijuana when he drove home and that impacted his ability to drive safely.

With Duhadway in the passenger seat and Stephen, who is a year older, sitting in the back seat, Desalis said, he was heading south in the right lane of the parkway when he veered to the right and then overcompensated when he turned the steering wheel to the left. He admitted to speeding at the time, somewhere between 82 and 86 mph. The speed limit is 65 mph.

“Did it cause your car to cross both southbound lanes and end up in the woods in the median area?” Tumulty asked.

“Yes,” said Desalis.

The car hit a tree. None of the occupants was wearing a seatbelt.

Among the charges, Desalis was given a ticket because those holding a provisional driver’s license can’t drive after midnight. The accident happened at 3:15 a.m.

The indictment to the grand jury was waived in order to allow the plea deal. The vehicular homicide charge will bring three years in state prison. The judge said Desalis is required to serve at least 85 percent of the sentence.

There will also be restitution.

“We’ll work out the details before sentencing,” Tumulty said.

Sentencing is set for June 14.

Contact Richard Degener:


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