Teen pleads guilty in crash that caused student’s death

Rocco LaDuca

A Westmoreland teenager pleaded guilty in Oneida County Court this week to causing a May car crash that killed a New Hartford High School senior, according to court documents.

John T. Woods, 19, of Berkshire Drive, pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide in the May 31 death of 18-year-old Cheryl Rettig.

According to Oneida County sheriff's investigators, Woods was driving his vehicle more than 85 mph to catch air over several bumps along a rural road in Westmoreland before crashing into a tree.

Cheryl Rettig, 18, a front-seat passenger, died from head injuries around 3 a.m. the next morning, deputies said.

Woods and a third passenger, Matthew Specht, 18, also of Berkshire Drive, suffered less severe injuries, deputies said.

Woods, Rettig and Specht, 18, were on their way from Rettig's New Hartford home when somebody suggested they “hit the bumps” along Cooper Street shortly before 8 p.m. that night, investigators said.

This week, Woods waived his right to have his case go to an Oneida County grand jury, and instead chose to plead guilty to superior court information that accused Woods of driving in a manner which “unreasonably interfered with the free and proper use of the public highway and unreasonably endangered users of the public highway.”

According to the superior court information, Woods recklessly drove his vehicle up to speeds in excess of 80 mph in a 55 mph zone and failed to keep right before striking into the tree.

Woods is due to be sentenced by Judge Barry M. Donalty on Thursday, Dec. 20. His likely sentence is unknown at this point.

Observer-Dispatch