Two men charged in June Letchworth drowning deaths pled guilty
|Chad Staley||Tyler Jennings|
The two men charged in the deaths of brothers 9-year-old Dylan and 6-year-old Preston Giangregorio, of Rochester, each pled guilty to one count of criminally negligent homicide.
Tyler Jennings, 34, of Farmington, and Chad Staley, 32, of Rochester, pled to the charge in Wyoming County Court Feb. 15 before Judge Michael Mohun. This charge is a Class E felony with a maximum sentence of one-and-one-third to four years in prison.
In the case of criminal negligence, the carelessness required is appreciably more serious than that for ordinary civil negligence, said Wyoming County District Attorney Donald O’Geen.
By definition, a person acts with criminal negligence with respect to a death when that person engages in conduct which creates or contributes to a substantial and unjustifiable risk that another person’s death will occur, and when he or she fails to perceive that risk, and when that risk is of such a nature and degree that failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.
Both men were each originally charged with: two counts of manslaughter in the second degree, a Class C felony; two counts of criminally negligent homicide, a Class E felony; and 10 counts of endangering the welfare of a child, a Class A misdemeanor.
The original charges stem from a five-month investigation that began June 11 by the New York State Park Police.
Jennings and Staley were with five children, 5 to 12 years old, in a restricted area of Letchworth State Park June 11. All seven patrons were in the water directly above the Lower Falls when they lost their footing and were swept over the 70-foot waterfall, resulting in the deaths of Dylan and Preston.
According to O’Geen, the two defendants and five children made their way toward the Lower Falls so they could see the falls up close. The children were then allowed to enter the water. When the swift current began to sweep the children away, the two men were unable to keep them and themselves from going over the falls.
Staley was stuck on the brink of the falls for almost two hours until he was saved by the Wyoming County Rope Rescue Team. Three of the children and Jennings were rescued June 11, but the brothers were not recovered until June 12 and June 14.
During the plea discussion, both men admitted that through their negligence, they caused the deaths of the two boys.
“This has been a difficult and emotional case for all involved and it is my hope that this disposition will begin to bring closure to the families involved, justice for Dylan, Preston and all the children, and at the same time send a message that danger/warning park signs matter as they are there to protect the public,” O’Geen said. “Hopefully, Dylan and Preston’s deaths will not be in vain and park visitors will learn from this preventable tragedy by following the rules of the park going forward.”
The court ordered a pre-sentence investigation report and adjourned the case until 2 p.m. May 17 for final sentencing.
Both Staley and Jennings continue to be released on their own recognizance until their court date.