November 29, 2023
A South Jersey man who ran his truck over another man, killing him outside a Bristol Township McDonald's in February, was sentenced Wednesday to 12 to 24 years in prison, Bucks County prosecutors said.
Daniel Dietrich, 46, of Palmyra, Burlington County, pleaded guilty voluntary manslaughter and related offenses for the Feb. 5 hit-and-run crash. His sentencing came after a plea hearing that was attended by family members of the victim, 47-year-old Jason Smith, of Levittown.
Before Smith was struck by the defendant's vehicle, he and Dietrich had a run-in on the road about a mile away from the McDonald's at 7700 Bristol Pike, investigators said. Surveillance video shows Smith drive his Nissan into the restaurant's parking lot, followed seconds later by Dietrich, who angled his pickup truck to temporarily block Smith from moving his car before backing into a parking spot.
Moments later, Smith got out of his car and grabbed a hammer from his trunk, according to police. When Smith approached the front of Dietrich's truck, Dietrich accelerated toward Smith and made a hard left-turn that knocked Smith to the ground. Dietrich then ran Smith over and fled the parking lot heading north on Route 13, police said. Smith later died at Jefferson Torresdale Hospital.
After the crash, police shared images of Dietrich's truck, and about a month after the hit-and-run they received a tip leading to Dietrich's home in New Jersey.
Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub said prosecutors had considered whether Dietrich, who had a suspended drivers license at the time of the incident, acted in self-defense. Based on the surveillance video, they believed Dietrich had a clear, alternative path out of the parking lot to avoid hitting Smith.
"It is my determination that the defendant caused and then aggravated this altercation when he had many other peaceful options at his disposal," Weintraub said in March.
Smith was a forklift operator and truck driver. He was engaged to be married at the time of his death, according to his obituary. The plea agreement reached Wednesday had the support of Smith's family, Weintraub said.
Common Pleas Judge Raymond F. McHugh sentenced Dietrich to nine to 18 years on the voluntary manslaughter charge and three to six years on the count of accidents involving death or personal injury. The sentences will be served consecutively. Dietrich also was ordered to undergo a drug and alcohol evaluation, complete an anger management course and pay restitution to Smith’s family to cover funeral costs.