TIFTON -- A Tifton teen who turned 17 Thursday will be charged as an adult with vehicular homicide after a man died in a wreck on U.S. Highway 319 Wednesday.

Wednesday afternoon, Gerald L. Gossert, 65, of Waynesboro, Penn., was driving his burgundy 2001 Honda Goldwing motorcycle south on U.S. Highway 319 with his wife traveling behind him on her red Goldwing Trike, a three-wheeled motorcycle.

According to witnesses, Cody Levi Abbott, 17, of Tifton, was traveling north on the highway when he pulled his green Honda Civic into oncoming traffic to make a left turn onto Bill Bowen Road.

"They were about to hit head on and Mr. Gossert laid the motorcycle down on its side," said Jody Abad, a senior traffic officer with the Tifton Police Department.

Deliberately laying a motorcycle to the ground is recommended when a collision is imminent, according to Abad. Gossert's maneuver, and the fact that his wife traveled far enough behind him to have the time to make a decision, led Abad to believe the two were experienced cyclists.

"Mr. Gossert's motorcycle hit the right front fender of the Honda and that is when he was ejected and the motorcycle ran down the side of the car," Abad said.

Gossert was killed instantly. His wife saw the wreck and "snatched her cycle to the right and went through the grass on the shoulder of the road," Abad said. She was not injured.

Abad said he had interviewed six people, including Abbott and members of the Gosserts' family. Late Thursday afternoon, he was putting the finishing touches on a scale diagram of the incident.

Abbott faces charges of second degree homicide by vehicle and failure to yield while making a left turn, both misdemeanor charges. If convicted of the charges, Abbott could receive up to a $1,000 fine and one year in jail.

Abad said neither driver received toxicology testing as neither was suspected of being under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol.

According to Abad, the precedent set in the 1980 case of Edmonds v. The State (of Georgia) allows adult prosecution of juveniles who will reach their 17th birthday within 24 hours of an alleged crime. Edmonds, the appellant in the case, was convicted of a burglary that happened between 12 a.m. and 1 a.m. on July 18, 1979. On appeal, Edmonds argued that he didn't reach his 17th birthday until 1:10 a.m. on July 18, 1962. He lost the appeal.

To contact city editor Angie Thompson, call 382-4321.

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