GREENVILLE — Christan Thomas, 35, of Piqua, pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated vehicular homicide, a first-degree felony, in Darke County Common Pleas Court Friday. Judge Jonathan P. Hein presided.
Thomas also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and vehicular assault. The defendant was found to be at fault in a three-car collision in January of last year that took the life of 23-year-old Tyler Baumgardner of Troy.
Darke County Assistant Prosecutor Jesse Green recommended a combined 10-year sentence for the charges, saying the crash had a profound effect on the victim’s family.
“I believe anything less would demean the seriousness of the offense,” Green told the court.
Defense attorney David Rohrer asked for a lesser penalty, highlighting his client’s remorse and the fact that she has a child in Kentucky, where she is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for another crime..
“My client has been contrite from the beginning,” Rohrer said. “She struggles with her addiction. This is probably the worst situation you can get, where your addiction has caused the death of another person.”
Thomas read a letter she had written to the court and the victim’s family, expressing remorse, a desire to better herself while in prison and saying she had recently given birth to twins, one of whom had died in childbirth.
“Not a day goes by when I don’t wish it had been me instead of Tyler,” Thomas said. “I only know a fraction of the pain his parents have suffered, losing a child they’ve made 23 years of memories with. When I was doing drugs, I used to think the worst thing that could happen was you would kill yourself. Now I know that’s not true.”
Finally, the victim’s mother addressed the court.
“Tyler was an only child, so we don’t get the opportunity of being parents or being grandparents anymore,” she said. “My advice to Miss Thomas is to make her time in prison useful: that’s a positive step. But the rehabilitation she has gotten in the past has not been effective. I believe the more time she has, the more maturity she can develop, so that one day she can get out and be ready to be a mother.”
Finally, Baumgardner’s mother asked that Thomas look at photographs of her son’s body following the accident, which she agreed to do.
Judge Hein ultimately sentenced Thomas to three years in prison, to be served once her term in Kentucky is complete, as well as five years of post-release supervision and a lifetime driver’s license suspension.
Others were arraigned Friday morning, including:
Jason Jones, 32, of Greenville, on charges of aggravated vehicular homicide, a first-degree felony, as well as driving under the influence and driving under suspension, both first-degree misdemeanors. Jones was involved in a traffic accident in February that resulted in the death of a passenger in his vehicle, 33-year-old Terra Hodge, also of Greenville. Jones’ next court appearance is a pre-trial conference, to be held July 19.
Olivia DeBord, of Greenville, on charges of theft, a fifth-degree felony. Her next court appearance is a status conference, to be held July 23.
Amberly Williams, 28, of Dayton, on charges of possession of cocaine and fentanyl, a fifth-degree felony. Her next court appearance is a status conference, to be held July 19.
Hailey Brown, 24, on charges of possession of methamphetamine, a fifth-degree felony. Her next court appearance is a status conference, to be held July 23.
Elizabeth Geiger, 23, of Greenville, on charges of aggravated possession of drugs, a third-degree felony. Her next court appearance is a pre-trial conference, to be held July 23.
All defendants were released on their own recognizance, in accordance with recommendations from the county prosecutor.
The writer may be reached at 937-569-4315. To join the conversation and get updates on Facebook, search Advocate360. For more features online, go to dailyadvocate.com