Tuesday, March 4, 2003

SUV owner pleads guilty in teen's death

Evansville man could receive 2-year sentence

By Sharon Turco
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Frederick Shipman is responsible for the death of a teenager, and injuries to three others, even though he wasn't behind the wheel of the SUV that hit them on their way to a 2001 Bengals game.

Frederick Shipman enters the courtroom Monday.
(Gary Landers photos)
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Mike and Kimberley Ashbrock, whose son was killed, hug after Shipman pleaded guilty.
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Stewart Williams (center), who was injured by the SUV, exclaims to Chris and Mike Ashbrock: "Justice was done."
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Shipman owned the Kia Sportage that struck the four. Shipman, whose license was suspended, let a paralyzed friend, Darrin Stafford, drive a car not equipped for his handicap, according to his plea Monday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

Judge Robert Taylor said he is considering sentencing Shipman to two years in prison - eight and half years less than the maximum sentence - for allowing Stafford to drive the SUV that plowed though a crowd of people on Nov. 18, 2001, as they crossed Second Street on their way to Paul Brown Stadium.

Shipman, 44, of Evansville, Ind., pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide in the death of 15-year-old Scott Asbrock, and to three counts of vehicular assault for injuring Stewart Williams, 23, of Middletown; Kyle Fields, 19, of Madeira; and Cincinnati Police Officer Jon Harris.

Michael and Kimberly Asbrock, Scott's parents, consented to the plea that might allow for the reduced sentence.

"What Mr. Shipman and Mr. Stafford did was wrong," Michael Asbrock said. "Shipman at least is taking responsibility for his actions."

Williams, who suffered a brain injury that left him in a coma for three months, said Monday he was relieved the trials were over, but no sentence will bring back what he lost.

"I'll never be the same," said Williams, who still goes to physical therapy weekly.

Last week a Hamilton County Common Pleas Court jury found Stafford, 31, guilty of the same four charges after deciding he had been driving the SUV (March 1 story).

Stafford faces 23 years in prison. During the trial, Taylor advised Stafford that should he plead guilty, the sentence most likely would be 11 years in prison. However, if he continued on and was found guilty, Taylor said he would consider the entire 23-year sentence. Stafford declined to plead guilty, maintaining he had not been driving and had just switched seats with Shipman because Shipman had been drinking.

Shipman has agreed to testify at sentencing about who was driving during their trip from Evansville to the game.

Shipman was scheduled to go to trial Monday when he decided to plead guilty. Charges of reckless homicide and vandalism, for damaging a police cruiser, were dropped.

"It's a legal issue and it was not a risk (Shipman) wanted to take," said Timothy Cutcher, Shipman's attorney.

Both men will be sentenced March 27.

E-mail sturco@enquirer.com

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