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By Kathleen Brady Shea
The Philadelphia Inquirer

CHESTER COUNTY, Penn. - A Chester County mother admitted yesterday that she was under the influence of drugs and alcohol when she caused a head-collision on March 27 that killed a young state trooper.
Kristina M. Quercetti, 40, of Landenberg, whose 4-year-old son was in the backseat at the time of the crash, entered guilty pleas to charges of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, endangering the welfare of a child, reckless endangerment, possession of a controlled substance, and traffic offenses.
The crash killed Trooper Kenton E. Iwaniec, 24, a recent Police Academy graduate who had just finished a shift at the Avondale barracks and was returning home to Lancaster, said First Assistant District Attorney Patrick Carmody.
As Carmody recited the facts of the case, members of both families wept.
Carmody said Quercetti was returning from a Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant in Reading with her son when she stopped in Morgantown at 7 p.m. and bought a bottle of vodka.
Fewer than two hours later, a motorist called 911 to report Quercetti driving recklessly, Carmody said. He said three truck drivers on Route 41 told authorities that Quercetti did not use her headlights and forced drivers off the road.
Minutes later, Quercetti sideswiped a truck driven by a 64-year-old man before hitting Iwaniec's vehicle head-on at 10:14 p.m., Carmody said.
He said Quercetti's blood-alcohol level was 0.34, more than four times the legal limit, and she also had oxycodone in her system. He said police found a bag of 20 pills in her car, as well as the partially consumed bottle of vodka.
Quercetti suffered a foot injury and was limping yesterday; her son was protected by his car seat, police said.
Chester County Court Judge Ronald C. Nagle set sentencing for Jan. 12.
Carmody said he would request the maximum of 11 to 22 years in prison "because of the egregious set of facts." Under sentencing guidelines, the homicide charge carries a minimum-mandatory sentence of three years in jail.
Defense attorney Thomas H. Ramsay said he hoped the judge would consider his client's acceptance of responsibility, evidenced by her guilty plea and decision not to post bail.
"This is a tragedy for both families, especially the Iwaniec family, who lost a son at such a young age," he said. "There's no question that she's remorseful."
Iwaniec's parents, Debra and Kenneth Iwaniec, who drove more than four hours from Western Pennsylvania to attend the proceeding, questioned whether someone capable of being "so reckless" could be remorseful.
"I just can't fathom someone willing to put her son at risk," said Debra Iwaniec. "Our sentence is a life sentence; it will go on forever."
Although the Iwaniecs expressed gratitude for the support they've received, especially from law enforcement, they said the adage about the healing-power of time has proven inaccurate.
"It's just the opposite; every day is more difficult," Debra Iwaniec said of the pain.
Her husband agreed.
"The only thing we know for certain is that tomorrow is going to be worse," he said.

Wire Service
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