Created on Thursday, 17 January 2013 Written by NATE SMITH
Two heartbroken mothers, still grieving the death of a child, Wednesday at a sentencing hearing for the defendant in Bellefontaine Municipal Court admonished the man responsible for the traffic crash that killed their teenage son and daughter.
Matthew Gilman, left, is escorted out of court by Bellefontaine Municipal Court Bailiff Jerry Downing following Wednesday’s sentencing hearing. (EXAMINER PHOTO | NATE SMITH)
Matthew Gilman, 23, of Knoxville, Tenn., was sentenced to 12 months in the Logan County Jail and two years’ community control, his driver’s license was suspended four years and he was fined $1,100 and court costs for two first-degree misdemeanor counts of vehicular homicide and citations for failure to control and passing on the right.
He was the driver of a vehicle that crashed Aug. 3 on U.S. Route 68 and killed his passengers, Matthew B. Stewart, 19, of DeGraff, and Megan R. Smith, 19, of West Liberty.
Judge Ann Beck suspended half the stated jail term. When credited with 33 days of time already served, Mr. Gilman will serve 147 more days in jail.
Mr. Stewart was supposed to return to Morehead State University in Kentucky on Aug. 4 — the day after he was killed, his mother, Cheryl Lozier, told the court. She said her son was to begin resident adviser training on campus there as a sophomore. He already had accrued more than 50 college credits toward a computer science degree, she said.
Ms. Smith’s mother, Lori Smith, described her second-oldest daughter as very intelligent and always willing to help out family and friends wherever she could.
“I’ll miss those hugs from behind and ‘I love you, Mommy’ text messages,” she told the court.
Mrs. Smith said her daughter and the defendant had been dating for a handful of weeks prior to the crash.
“I don’t blame you for the crash,” she told Mr. Gilman. “I should’ve done more to express to Megan my reservations about her seeing you.
“The least you can do now is accept your pittance of punishment.”
Mrs. Lozier said she wasn’t sure she could ever forgive the defendant for what happened.
“I spent my holidays not buying Christmas presents for Matt, but shopping for a headstone, and the worst part is you’ve shown no remorse throughout,” she said, as the defendant sobbed.
“You’ve never once apologized, instead blaming everyone from the state for the road being too sharp to the poor van driver turning left.”
Another part of Mr. Gilman’s punishment involves working with the victim’s families to plant a tree and place a bench in honor of Ms. Smith and Mr. Stewart, respectively, Judge Beck said.
“I believe we are here because of an accident, and I believe — based on the numerous letters I’ve received from your friends and family — that you’re a good person,” Judge Beck said. “And I believe you’ll be haunted by this the rest of your life.”
According to the Logan County Sheriff’s Office, the defendant was northbound on U.S. 68 and drove around the right side of another vehicle which was stopped for a left turn into a business.
The Gilman vehicle then went into a ditch, overcorrected and crossed the centerline into the path of a southbound vehicle operated by Jarrad T. Parker, 36, of Marysville.
Mr. Parker and his passenger, Steven Curtis, 36, of Sardinia, required medical attention.
The defendant was taken from the scene by CareFlight to Miami Valley Hospital.
Defense attorney Peter DeSomma theorized his client was probably not focused on driving, and instead on Ms. Smith sitting next to him in the front seat.
“He probably looked up and there was this vehicle stopped on the road,” he said. “What happened is tragic, but it was an accident.
“It happened in the blink of an eye.”
Mr. DeSomma also noted there were no alcohol or drugs involved in the crash.
“Matt is suffering just as the parents are,” Mr. DeSomma said.
“I want to make it clear to everybody here, to Matt and Megan’s family and friends, that I am sorry for what happened and this is something I will live with for the rest of my life,” Mr. Gilman said.
“I loved Megan dearly.”