Thursday, June 5, 2003

Fatal crash goes to grand jury

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - A Butler County grand jury will consider whether to indict a 25-year-old Liberty Township man in connection with a fatal traffic crash that authorities say involved alcohol.

Butler County Area II Judge J.B. Connaughton Wednesday found sufficient evidence to send the case of Timothy C. Strait to a grand jury. He initially faced charges of aggravated vehicular homicide, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, failure to control and failure to wear a seat belt.

Assistant Prosecutor Jason Phillabaum said tests showed Strait's blood-alcohol level was high enough for authorities to file an "enhanced DUI, a super DUI" charge against him. While a typical driving-under-the-influence charge carries a minimum sentence of three days in jail and a 15-day suspension of all driving privileges, the penalties double if a person is found guilty of the enhanced DUI charge, Phillabaum explained.

Under Ohio law, a person is considered too intoxicated to drive if his blood-alcohol level exceeds 0.10. The enhanced DUI may be filed if that level is 0.17 or above. Phillabaum declined to give Strait's specific test result, but said it exceeded that threshold.

The charges against Strait arise from a three-vehicle crash that killed Strait's passenger, Chad Geiger, 25, of Mason, and injured nine others including Strait. The May 18 wreck occurred on Interstate 75 near the Monroe rest area.

Police said cable barriers, installed this year after a series of deadly median-crossover crashes, performed as expected and prevented Strait's vehicle from crossing the median into oncoming traffic - possibly preventing a more tragic result.

Strait's Ohio driving record shows three previous convictions, all in Mason Municipal Court: a 1995 DUI , a 2000 reckless operation and a 2002 improper turn.

Phillabaum said Connaughton agreed to allow Strait to drive to work while his case is pending.


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