BALLSTON SPA — The Corinth man who intentionally drove his SUV into a group of motorcycles in 2020, killing the former coach of the Glens Falls Greenjackets football team, was sentenced in Saratoga County Court on Tuesday to 20 years to life in prison.
Dylan K. Vella, 28, had pleaded guilty in November to second-degree murder and other counts for the incident on April 7, 2020.
Vella crashed his Ford Escape SUV into three motorcycles in the village of Corinth. A total of four people were injured and Paul Hollenbeck, 53, of Corinth, died from his injuries on April 16.
Just before the crash, Vella was fleeing from the scene of a sexual assault at the Stewart’s Pond Recreation Area in Hadley. Police said he attempted to rape a woman and forcibly take the cellphone of the victim’s friend as she attempted to photograph him.
Vella was deemed not fit to stand trial in August 2020. He was committed to a psychiatric facility to be evaluated. He was deemed competent in December of that year.
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The court heard victim impact statements from people affected by the crash.
Raymond Morris Jr. sent a written statement that he suffered broken bones in his left leg and both ankles. He also broke his nose. Morris said in the statement he also has emotional trauma.
“I wake up screaming and soaking in sweat. I am stuck in the house with no way to support my family,” he said in the statement read by Assistant District Attorney Shawn Lescault.
Victim Bernadine Hamblin said that Vella’s actions that day “robbed the world of a selfless human being.”
“I want you to have a life sentence. That’s exactly what we were given,” she said.
Hollenbeck’s widow, Christine, said she misses his smile and the way he said “I love you” every day.
She said Hollenbeck had a lot of interests including music and sports and was beloved by his family. She said her husband’s death was the worst day of their lives. Vella is responsible.
“Your actions had a profound impact on many lives in our community,” she said.
Vella could be heard sobbing while the statements were being read.
Assistant District Attorney Lescault told the court that Vella “coldly and deliberately” ended the life of Hollenbeck.
“This was no accident, your honor. This crime was intentional. The defendant knew what he was doing was wrong,” Lescault said.
When being interviewed for the pre-sentencing report, Vella told them he was trying to murder people.
“He continues to have really bad thoughts in his head,” Lescault said.
Although Vella did not have a criminal history, he admitted to having fantasies regarding sexual assault and murder, according to Lescault.
“Dylan Vella is one of the most dangerous human beings that’s come through this court in a long time,” he said.
Vella’s defense attorney, William Nowak, said there is nothing he could say that would bring justice to the victims. He said Vella has a history of mental illness, but has to take responsibility for his actions.
“Today is not a day of excuses,” Novak said.
When asked by Judge James Murphy if he had anything to say, Vella responded: “I just want to say I’m sorry for what I’ve done.”
Murphy said that nothing the court can do will make these victims whole. He said he appreciated their courage to share their stories and taking things one day at a time.
Although Vella has no criminal history, Murphy said he has “created a massacre of destruction in your wake in your first encounter with the criminal justice system.”
Murphy sentenced Vella to 20 years to life in a state prison for the murder plea, 15 years for each of two first-degree assault charge pleas, seven years for the second-degree assault plea and seven years for the sexual abuse plea. The sentences are to run concurrently.
Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen commended the work of agencies including the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office, Jessup’s Landing EMS, Corinth EMS and the Corinth Fire Department and good Samaritans in the response to the crash and subsequent investigation.
In addition to Lescault, Assistant District Attorney Michele Schettino and DA investigators Michael Wells and Jack Barney worked on the case.
“No sentence can heal the injuries suffered by the many victims, but (it) does reflect the seriousness of the incident. The sentence for murder in the second degree of 20 years to life provides that our criminal justice system will have oversight of the defendant for the rest of his life,” Heggen said in a news release.
Michael Goot covers politics, crime and courts, Warren County, education and business. Reach him at 518-742-3320 or firstname.lastname@example.org.