Drunk driver gets 15 years in prison for fiery crash that killed local mom
Mar 14, 2014 at 10:07 PM
"This isn't just an accident; this was a crazy accident."
That was Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler's assessment of a high-speed accident Sept. 17 that killed a 36-year-old mother and severely injured three passengers in a drunk driver's car.
In late January, Morgan E. Jevec, 24, of Massillon, pleaded guilty to one count each of aggravated vehicular homicide, aggravated vehicular assault and failure to comply with order or signal of police officer. He also was convicted of two charges of vehicular assault.
"He deserves every day the court can give him," Leffler told Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway.
The judge followed the joint recommendation between Leffler and Huron County Public Defender David Longo and sentenced Jevec to 15 years in prison Wednesday.
The defendant, who will be on three years of parole, can apply for early release after spending 11 years behind bars. Jevec was stoic as the judge announced the prison term.
"A lengthy sentence would be appropriate," said Conway, who admitted sentencing for such cases is difficult.
The driver of a 2002 Chevrolet Blazer, Tracy Albright, 36, of Bellevue, was stopped at a red light at the North Sandusky Street intersection in the city Sept. 17. She died almost instantly after Jevec rear-ended the truck, which caught on fire and was pushed into the intersection.
The fiery crash closed U.S. 20 for about three hours.
Conway said one of the passengers was in a coma for more than a month, another sustained a broken jaw and rib and had some back injuries while the third passenger had a lacerated liver, significant burns and has ongoing numbness. The judge said the victims -- three men from Canton -- will require more surgeries and have sustained injuries that affect their enjoyment of life.
Jevec must pay about $1.29 million in restitution to cover the medical expenses for the three victims. The court also suspended Jevec's driver's license for his lifetime.
"If I could take this back, I would," Jevec told the judge. "I'm going to have to live it with the rest of my life."
Jevec said although he wishes "things had been different," he knows his actions have a significant impact on the victims and their families.
"I have to find forgiveness for myself," said the defendant, who hopes the victims' families will find a way to forgive him. "I pray for them every day."
The defendant's blood-alcohol concentration between .136 and .19 percent. The legal limit for drivers in Ohio is .08 percent.
"The (state) Highway Patrol did a thorough job of investigating this," Leffler said.
Jevec and some friends were out drinking Sept. 17 when he drove a 1989 Mercury Grand Marquis from Norwalk to Bellevue.
"He was supposed to be the designated driver," said Leffler, who noted Jevec at one point drank milk at Charlie's Bar in Norwalk.
"He drove absurdly," Leffler said. "When he saw officers, he sped up."
Longo, Jevec's attorney, disagreed with part of the prosecutor's assessment, but said the accident is certainly a tragedy.
"There's been no testimony he saw any officers," said Longo, who added that Jevec apparently "blew past" an officer who attempted to stop him.
At 11:07 p.m., the Bellevue Police Department received the report of a reckless driver on U.S. 20 in Monroeville. Three minutes later, the pursuing officer clocked Jevec going 78 mph in a 50 mph zone near Prairie Road. Other officers soon joined the pursuit.
"He doesn't know why he was going that fast," Longo said.
"The true tragedy is that his passengers got hurt. The true tragedy is a mother was killed," the public defender added.
"I don't think he has a mean bone in his body. ... I don't believe he had any intention to hurt anybody," Longo said.
The defendant's mother, Kathy Jevec, said she couldn't claim her son "is an angel," but added "he doesn't have a mean intention toward anyone."
"There was no pre-planning on his part," she said.