Tuesday, July 15, 2003

4-death driver loses license

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WILMINGTON - A 17-year-old Goshen Township girl who was driving a car that crashed last year, killing four other teens, will lose her license for two years, a juvenile court judge ordered Monday.

The girl appeared in Clinton County Juvenile Court for sentencing on charges of speeding and driving with a suspended license.

The teen was also ordered to serve 250 hours of community service and will be placed on probation. She was ordered to speak to other teens about her actions.

In May, she pleaded guilty to the charges, which stemmed from an Aug. 12 crash that killed Lester Smith, 16, of Loveland; Jennifer McRoberts, 16, of Goshen; Natasha Schnelle, 17, of Pleasant Plain; and Jessie King, 16, of Loveland.

The front seat passenger, a 17-year-old Loveland boy, is accused of causing the crash. Officials allege he jerked the steering wheel and caused the car to swerve, go off the road and strike a fence post and a tree.

He has been charged with four counts of reckless homicide.

His trial, which had originally been set for this month, is now scheduled to start Sept. 2.

Parents of the four teens spoke during Monday's sentencing and doubted whether the driver was remorseful. The girl declined to make a statement prior to sentencing.

"What do you feel?" asked Kathy McRoberts, mother of Jennifer, as she addressed the teen. "Is there sorrow or remorse? I surely haven't seen it. ... How would you feel if your daughter left for an outing and was killed by two people who show no sorrow or remorse?"

The girl's parents told the judge that their daughter is remorseful and has been seriously affected by the crash. She hasn't been able to complete her junior year of high school and sometimes has problems getting out of bed, they said.

McRoberts, however, speaking through tears, said that wasn't enough.

"You got lucky that you are alive and that the justice system failed to charge you with four counts of homicide, because as the driver of that car you were just as responsible," McRoberts told the girl. "You and your boyfriend did not take the adult responsibility of driving seriously. ... Jenny was our light and our lives."

The deaths of their children has prompted McRoberts and the other parents to form CLICK - Caring Ladies Increasing Community Knowledge, a group created to encourage responsible driving and seat belt use.

"Our families will never be the same. A vital piece is missing," McRoberts added.

"All I have now is the drive and determination to try and keep this from happening to other people."

The teens, all students at Goshen High School, were heading to Monroe Falls for a swim when their car went off Ohio 28 in Clark Township, Clinton County.

The four teens who died were in the back seat and not wearing seat belts, officials said.


E-mail mmccain@enquirer.com

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