June 27, 2016

Partly sunny

Man gets 8 years for crash deaths

MEDINA — Fighting back tears, Ference Schmidt apologized to the family of Lawrence and Betty Erb, the elderly couple that died as a result of a 2008 accident caused by Schmidt’s speeding.

“I know it’s no consolation to the accident that took your parents’ lives; I know now that my speed was what caused it. I’m sorry for those actions. I wish I could take them back,” Schmidt said Thursday morning in county Common Pleas Court. “I live with this every day of my life.”

After his comments, Judge James L. Kimbler sentenced the 20-year-old to eight years in prison on two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and one count of aggravated vehicular assault.

He faced a maximum sentence of 11½ years for the three charges.

“Well, Mr. Schmidt, the unfortunate thing about human justice … is that it has to start at the time of the act and go forward,” Kimbler said. “I have no doubt that you would give anything you would have to go back and undo that act. But it’s not given to you.”

On Oct. 10, 2008, Schmidt was driving his 2008 Dodge Charger westbound on U.S. Route 224 in Harrisville Township and hit the Erbs’ Pontiac Montana as it crossed Route 224 at Harris Road.

In addition to the Erbs’ deaths, Schmidt’s friend who was a passenger in the car, was seriously injured in the accident.

An Ohio Highway Patrol trooper testified during Schmidt’s bench trial last month that information from the Charger’s data recorder showed the car was traveling about 124 mph five seconds before the accident and about 75 mph immediately before.

Kimbler found Schmidt guilty after the three-day trial.

“Mr. Schmidt … is frankly addicted to speed. Speed is Mr. Schmidt’s drug,” Assistant Prosecutor Joe Dangelo said during Thursday’s sentencing. Dangelo said Schmidt belonged to a “100 Mile an Hour” racing club and posted on Facebook pictures of a “tricked out” new car he bought one month after the fatal accident.

Schmidt’s lawyer Lawrence Whitney asked Kimbler to take two factors into consideration during the sentencing.

“First, he was barely 19 when this accident occurred. And No. 2, I think this is a dangerous intersection in this county,” he said.

“But it’s especially dangerous when you go 124 miles per hour … in an area that has a posted speed of 60,” Kimbler replied.

Kimbler also suspended Schmidt’s driver’s license for 20 years after he’s released from prison, with a possibility for some privileges after three years.

Members of both the Schmidt and Erb families declined to comment after the sentencing.

“We’re going to talk with the family and review some things and decide whether or not to appeal the court’s verdict in the next week,” Whitney said after the sentencing.

“I think the court imposed a fair sentence. It’s a very tragic situation, with the death of two people,” Prosecutor Dean Holman said after the sentencing. “This case just shows the danger of high speed. Hopefully this sentence will serve to deter others from driving in such a reckless manner.”

Contact Maria Kacik Kula at (330) 721-4049 or mkacik@medina-gazette.com.

Ference Schmidt, right, apologizes Thursday morning in court to the Erb family. (MARIA KACIK KULA / GAZETTE)

Ference Schmidt, right, apologizes Thursday morning in court to the Erb family. (MARIA KACIK KULA / GAZETTE)