Saturday, March 1, 2003

Paraplegic driver guilty of homicide

Stafford faces 23 years for killing teen, injuring three at crosswalk

By Sharon Turco
The Cincinnati Enquirer


A paraplegic driving a car without handicap controls was convicted Friday of running a red light and killing a teenager who was crossing Second Street to attend a Bengals game.

A Hamilton County jury found Darrin Stafford, 31, of Evansville, Ind., guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide for killing 15-year-old Scott Asbrock, of Mason, in November 2001. Stafford also was convicted on three counts of vehicular assault for injuring Stewart Williams, 23, of Middletown; Kyle Fields, 19, of Madeira; and Cincinnati Police Officer Jon Harris.

Williams was in a coma for three months after being struck by the Kia Sportage on Nov. 18, 2001, and still has not fully recovered. Fields is a baseball player who suffered several broken bones. Although he has recovered, his college will not allow him to play baseball because of the pins in his leg. Harris suffered a wrist injury that still aches.

Stafford tried to convince a jury that he wasn't the driver.

As the verdict was read, tears streamed down the face of Kimberly Asbrock, Scott Asbrock's mother. She hugged her son, Christopher Asbrock, who was with his brother when he was killed. They extended their embrace to include Michael Asbrock, Scott Asbrock's father.

"It's like tons of weights were taken off our shoulders," Michael Asbrock said. "The jurors did the right thing, deep down they knew he was driving."

Stafford displayed no emotion, not even looking toward his family. His parents declined to comment, but as they left the courtroom they offered Kimberly Asbrock a hug and said how sorry they were about her son's death.

"We needed to say something to each other," Kimberly Asbrock said.

Stafford faces 23 years in prison when he is sentenced March 27. Early in the trial, Judge Robert Taylor suggested Stafford consider a plea bargain to lesser charges, saying he would likely sentence him to spend 11 years in prison. He told Stafford that if he chose to go forward and was found guilty, he'd be inclined to impose the entire 23 years of prison time.

After the verdict, Taylor ordered Stafford returned to jail, where he has been since the incident.

Stafford testified that the car's owner, Frederick Shipman, 44, was driving. He said he switched seats with Shipman before police arrived because Shipman had been drinking.

"Obviously, the jury didn't believe him," said Hamilton County Assistant Prosecutor Gerald Krumpelbeck. "That's what the verdict reflects."

Prosecutors said Shipman allowed Stafford to drive. They said Stafford had also been drinking and was driving on a suspended license.

Shipman, 44, also of Evansville, is scheduled to go to trial Monday on the same charges and additional charges of reckless homicide and vandalism.


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