April 24, 2014

Intermittent clouds

I-71 fatality brings four years in prison

Staff Writer

MEDINA — A former executive at Panther Expedited Services in Seville was sentenced to four years in prison Monday after pleading guilty to killing a Sheffield Lake man and injuring his wife in a 2006 accident on Interstate 71.

John J. Sliter, 37, of 2917 Woodhaven Drive, Granger Township, pleaded guilty last month to a count of aggravated vehicular homicide, a third-degree felony, and a count of aggravated vehicular assault, a fourth-degree felony, as part of a plea agreement.

On Dec. 19, 2006, Sliter met some co-workers at a restaurant in Seville and admitted to having a few mixed drinks there, court documents show. While driving north on I-71 in Montville Township, and bending down to grab his cell phone, his truck hit a van driven by Walter Rozmarynowycz, 69, with his wife, Mary, as a passenger.

Sliter’s truck went through the median and into the southbound lane, and the Rozmarynowyczs’ van veered off the road and rolled onto its top.

Walter Rozmarynowycz was pronounced dead at the scene and Mary was taken to Cleveland MetroHealth Medical Center, where she was released a few days later. Sliter suffered minor injuries.

John J. Sliter (right), 37, of Granger Township, is sentenced to four years in prison Monday after pleading guilty last month to killing a Sheffield Lake man and injuring his wife in a 2006 accident on Interstate 71. Sliter’s attorney, Brian Downing, speaks at Monday’s sentencing in Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier’s court. (Bridget Commisso | Staff Photographer)

All lanes of I-71 were closed for 1½ hours after the crash.

At his sentencing hearing, Sliter apologized to the victims’ family and to his own family, which includes two young sons.

“There is nothing I can do to make up for it,” he said, crying, while addressing several members of the victims’ family. “I wish this never happened.”

Sliter’s attorney, Brian Downing, said he never had a client as emotionally distraught about his actions as Sliter, and his remorse was genuine.

Along with his prison sentence, Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier ordered Sliter to pay $22,000 in medical and funeral costs to the victims’ family and suspended his driver’s license for the rest of his life.

“This is a kind of case that is absolutely a tragedy,” Collier said.

As part of the plea agreement, Sliter will not file for early release from prison for at least two years, county Prosecutor Dean Holman said.

He was taken into custody Monday. He had been free on bond.

More than 50 co-workers, family members and friends wrote letters to Collier in support of Sliter.

Wood may be reached at 330-721-4050 or allisonwood@ohio.net.

  • http://gazette Joe Leto

    It s a shame to this man get sentenced to four years in jail for this accident, i understand justice has to be served, this same court system
    sentenced the man that killed my brother who was 18 years old to 6 months in jail, where does
    justice stand for a man who had multiple DUI offences and driving under suspensions, the man did not even have a license and killed a brother, a son a future uncle and friend who very much loved by everyone, 6 months for killing a someones kid. Now this man faces 4 years in jail for the same type of accident, but he
    was repected in his community and father to 2 young sons, and as to live with what happened every morning when he wakes and every night when he goes to bed, yet the other man who cause my grief is driving around free, DO you really think our justice system is fair ?

  • Carrie

    Why does this man get 4 years when on the same day in the Gazette on page 5 Christopher VanGelderen gets charged with a misdemeanor. It cleary states in the article he is charged with Drunken Driving. No where in Mr. Sliters article does it state he was charged with Drunken Driving. I guess I am a little confused on how this is fair to Mr. Sliter. Does it mean that if you injure or take the life of a family member that it is ok and won’t be punished to the extreme and you get favortism in the court system. I am sure Mr. Sliter has just the same amount of remorse as Christopher has for ending somebodys life.

  • Patti

    I can almost understand the 4 years as someones life was taken for a careless act. The article did not say if Sliter was legally drunk. I don’t understand the life without a license punishment. His family will suffer that burden too. He has not been shown to be a habitual drunk driver and many of those are still permitted to drive around putting others in danger over and over. I feel bad for Sliter and his family. He made a serious mistake that had a fatal consequences but he seems like an upstanding member of the community that will suffer a lifetime.

  • Nancy E. Sinclair

    He was a drunk driver!!! He deserves much more than four years in prison. His driving privilege license should be revoked for the rest of his life in all 50 of the U.S. states. How wonderful he is now sorry, he should be sorry. Prison keys should be thrown away for these idot drunks drivers.

  • Nancy E. Sinclair

    Sliter has caused unrepairable grief to many. The victim’s family will never have closure. The law recognizes “accidents” as negligence. Sliter is a negligent human being, a short prison sentence is an insult to the victim’s family.

  • response to nancy….

    nancy, how much do you know about the LAW…. you act like you know alot… therefore you should know that the plea bargin had to be approved by the victims family….. if it is an insult to them why did they approve it…. they must have been satified with it….

  • sometimesoon

    If I recall correctly, the family chose not to speak at Mr. Sliter’s sentencing. If they felt the plea agreement was an injustice they should have made their opinion known then. You make many assumptions about Mr. Sliter when you don’t even know him. And for that, I am truly sorry. He has touched and enriched the lives of many and I feel blessed to have him in my life and to have him as a friend.