Sunday, October 29, 2000

Teen doing time for girlfriend's death




By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        DAYTON, Ohio — Teen-ager Travis Leaver woke up at University Hospital to a blur of police questions. One he remembers well: “Who was in the car with you?”

        The answer was his girlfriend, JesicaLongbottom, 18, of Madison Place. She was dead at the scene, killed when Mr. Leaver's Firebird flipped off an embankment in Madeira on Jan. 26.

        Her family is now inconsolable. Mr. Leaver, 19, is now Ohio prison inmate #39271900, serving three years with no chance for early parole.

SPECIAL REPORT
  • Young blood on the road
  • Take our teen driver survey
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  - Teen doing time for girlfriend's death
  • Scares and rewards: Programs try to make safe drivers
        Mr. Leaver is one of three young men who were driving this year in fatal Tristate crashes that killed their teen-age girlfriends. All three teen-age boys lived, and two face legal penalties. An investigation into the third is continuing.

        For Mr. Leaver, that means three years in the Dayton Correctional Institution for aggravated vehicular homicide. He began serving his time in May.

        “I woke up in the hospital, and they kept asking me, "Who was in the car with you?'” he says. “Then it hit me. You got to understand, this is one of the first girls I went out with, one of the first girls I kissed.”

        One of 478 inmates at the prison, he wears a prison-issued outfit: light blue shirt over a dark blue T-shirt, and dark blue pants.

        “I'm sure everybody has fears,” he says of prison life. “It's not scared, really. It's, let's just say overwhelmed.”

        The days never vary. He's up at 7:15 a.m. Breakfast, then back to his six-by-10-foot cell with the white-painted, cinder-block walls. Head count at 10:30 a.m. He reads his books, most often the Alcoholics Anonymous handbook. He works out, plays volleyball and basketball. Lunch at 12:30 p.m., then back to his cell. Then dinner. He writes letters. Lock-down is at 9. He's in a cell by himself, no TV.

        Mr. Leaver blames no one but himself and credits his father for being a positive influence, adding, “I was raised pretty good.” He refers to himself as an alcoholic and concedes he'd been drinking heavily in the hours before Jesica died.

        “I don't think you can explain, in any words, how sorry you are,” he says of Jesica's family. “I just want to take their grief, or bring their daughter back.”

       



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