A Martin, Ohio, woman pleaded no contest Wednesday to a misdemeanor charge for a crash last year that killed a 21-year-old woman who was bicycling cross-country to raise money for multiple sclerosis research.
Lynne R. Smith, 49, is to be sentenced June 3 after Louis Wargo, an Ottawa County Municipal Court magistrate, accepted her plea to one count of second-degree vehicular homicide and convicted her.
Emilee Gagnon, of Holliston, Mass., was riding her bicycle westbound on State Rt. 163 in Harris Township, about two miles east of Genoa, shortly before sunset Sept. 23 when Ms. Smith’s sport utility vehicle struck her from behind near Nissen Road.
Ms. Smith told Ohio Highway Patrol troopers she didn’t see the bicyclist because of glare from the setting sun. She said she had driven into the sunlight for about eight miles after leaving Oak Harbor on Route 163, and was adjusting a visor to reduce the glare when she struck Miss Gagnon. She estimated her speed at 55 to 58 mph.
She faces up to 90 days in jail and a $750 fine for the conviction, and her driver’s license could be suspended for up to two years.
David Boldt, an assistant county prosecutor, said the plea agreement reached with Ms. Smith calls for an additional charge of failing to maintain an assured clear distance to be dismissed at sentencing.
Celia and John Gagnon, the victim’s parents, drove from Massachusetts to Port Clinton to attend the plea hearing.
“We are not happy with [the plea]. We feel she was reckless,” Mrs. Gagnon said.
Miss Gagnon graduated in May, 2013, from Westfield State University in Massachusetts, and had embarked from Holliston on July 23 for a cycling trip to San Francisco as a fund-raiser for research of the neurological disease that had stricken her grandfather, who died in January.
Miss Gagnon, was diagnosed at age 13 with ovarian cancer, her mother said.
“She was very strong willed and determined,” Mrs. Gagnon said.
After the hearing, Tom Stebbins, Ms. Smith’s attorney, said his client drove up an incline on Route 163, at which point she was “totally blinded” by the sun, and couldn’t see Miss Gagnon or her bicycle
“In all my 35 years of practicing law, I have never seen a woman more remorseful,” Mr. Stebbins said of his client.
By Mark Reiter - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (MCT)
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