ROSSBURG — A Rossburg, Ohio, man faces up to eight years in prison after pleading guilty yesterday to multiple charges involving a crash on a Kentucky interstate last January.
A jury trial for Christopher Thornhill, 34, had been scheduled for next week in Boone County, Kentucky, Circuit Court. As a result of the guilty plea, however, he will be sentenced February 24.
Investigators from the Boone County Sheriff’s Office determined that Thornhill was texting on a cellphone while operating a tractor trailer heading northbound on Interstate 71 on Jan. 29, 2015, near Verona, Kentucky.
Thornhill’s semi-truck sideswiped an unoccupied vehicle parked on the shoulder along the road. He then lost control and crossed the median, entering the interstate’s southbound lanes where his truck overturned. Two vehicles heading southbound collided with the truck.
The driver of one southbound vehicle, Mark Sevilla, 45, of Lexington, Kentucky, died at the scene. The driver of the other vehicle, Sandra Edwards, 64, of Cincinnati, Ohio, was transported to University of Cincinnati Medical Center by AirCare helicopter with life-threatening injuries, but survived. Thornhill sustained only minor injuries.
Thornhill was further accused of falsifying his log and deleting the text messages from his phone following the crash.
In May 2015, a Boone County grand jury indicted Thornhill on 12 counts, including second-degree manslaughter for the death of Sevilla; a second-degree assault charge for the injuries sustained by Edwards; one count of tampering with physical evidence; four counts of first-degree criminal mischief; three U.S. Department of Transportation log book violations; a communications device (texting) violation; and one USDOT violation of using a cell phone in a commercial vehicle.
Thornhill has been held in the Boone County Jail since being extradited to Kentucky by the Darke County Sheriff’s Office in June 2015.
“Cases like these are horrible,” said Dean Pisacano, the attorney representing Thornhill. “It’s tough. Three families have been destroyed by this, his family included.”
Pisacano said he expects his client will likely be eligible for parole after serving 20 percent of his sentence.