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Driver sentenced to 12-24 years for road rage death outside Bristol Township McDonald’s


A New Jersey man who intentionally ran over a man in the parking lot of a McDonald’s in Bristol Township earlier this year pleaded guilty Wednesday, and was sentenced to 12 to 24 years in state prison.

Daniel Stephen Dietrich, 46, of Palmyra, entered guilty pleas in Bucks County Court to voluntary manslaughter, accidents involving death or personal injury, accidents involving death or injury while not licensed and driving on a suspended driver’s license.

In the emotional plea hearing, Common Pleas Judge Raymond F. McHugh heard several victim impact statements from the parents, daughter, fiancé, and friends of Jason Smith, 47, of Levittown, described as a wonderful person who was “deeply loved by so many.”

“I not only lost my dad, but I lost a huge part of me that I will never get back,” his daughter said.

As part of a negotiated plea, 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, with both sentences running consecutively, the Bucks County District Attorney’s office said. Dietrich was also ordered to undergo a drug and alcohol evaluation, complete an anger management course, and pay restitution to the victim’s family to cover funeral costs.

Smith was struck and killed by a pickup truck driven by Dietrich on Feb. 5, 2023, at the McDonalds at 7700 Bristol Pike in Bristol Township. After the crash, Dietrich exited the parking lot and drove away on Route 13 toward Tullytown.

An investigation by detectives with the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office and the Bristol Township Police Department and aided by tips from the public led to Dietrich’s arrest a month later.

The District Attorney’s office said the investigation found that the two men had been involved in an earlier driving incident about a mile before they arrived at the McDonald’s restaurant. At the restaurant, surveillance footage showed Smith’s Nissan entering the McDonald’s parking lot from the Haines Road entrance.

Seconds later, Dietrich pulled his truck along the right side of Smith’s car, then stopped in the entrance-way area, blocking the entrance to other traffic. Dietrich maneuvered his truck in front of Smith, blocked Smith’s possible forward motion, and backed into a parking spot.

Smith then got out of his car, opened his trunk, retrieved a hammer, and began to approach Dietrich’s truck, the surveillance footage showed. As Smith got close, Dietrich accelerated and made a hard left turn into Smith. Dietrich knocked Smith to the ground, drove over him and continued driving out of the McDonald’s parking lot.

Smith was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead, and an autopsy found that he died of major blunt force injuries to his torso and chest.

Dietrich never stopped, rendered aid or called for help, and driving records showed that he was driving with a suspended license. Dietrich had an alternative, clear exit out of the parking spot by driving to the right, the surveillance footage showed.

“This was a difficult case due to the sheer randomness and then the resulting homicidal violence of the encounter between the defendant and the victim,” District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub said. “I credit law enforcement for the job they did in tracking down Mr. Smith’s killer.” Bucks County and Bristol Township detectives were assisted by law enforcement in New Jersey.

“Even though Mr. Smith is dead, and Mr. Dietrich must now spend a decade or two in prison due their road rage encounter, I am still hopeful that his guilty plea will allow Mr. Smith’s family to grieve in the way that they choose,” Weintraub added. “They have demonstrated incredible grace throughout this difficult time.”

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