Just days before Noel Papenfuse was scheduled to complete the jail sentence ordered for his role in a 2010 car crash that resulted in the deaths of three of his closest friends, a Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge modified the sentence and placed him on five years of probation.
Judge Stacy Cook told Mr. Papenfuse Tuesday that the modified sentence would give him “some sort of safety net out there.” She said she intends to track his progress over the five years and ordered him to forgo all drugs and alcohol, participate in three Alcoholics Anonymous meetings per week, and volunteer his story to help other teens.
“It certainly is easier to serve the days but easier is not always the answer,” Judge Cook said. “I’m not willing to leave you completely unattended to go out and fall. It’s work, but it’s work for you.”
Mr. Papenfuse, 22, of Toledo was sentenced in October, 2011, to 1½ years in the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio after being found guilty the month before of three counts of misdemeanor vehicular homicide.
A jury had found him not guilty of the felony counts of aggravated vehicular homicide.
He was slated to be released as early as this Saturday after the calculation of good-time credit.
Judge Cook recalled the circumstances of the Oct. 21, 2010, crash in the 5400 block of North Detroit Avenue involving a pickup and a car.
The crash, which occurred just before 2 a.m., killed Toledo cousins Bryan Richardson, Jr., 20, and Bradley Richardson, Jr., 21, and their friend Noah McFadden, 23, of Sylvania, all passengers in Mr. Papenfuse’s car.
The three victims were pronounced dead at the scene.
Accident reconstruction experts determined that Mr. Papenfuse was driving 79 mph in a 45 mph zone when he began braking for the pickup and was traveling 63 mph at the time of impact.
Judge Cook said that while others might tell Mr. Papenfuse that he wasn’t to blame, she knew better.
“I have the facts,” she said. “You cannot in any way excuse your behavior that day.”
The driver of the pickup, Paul Never, 69, of Ottawa Lake, Mich., pleaded guilty in July, 2011, to three counts of aggravated vehicular homicide for his involvement in the crash and was sentenced in September, 2011, to four years in prison.
Never has twice been denied judicial release. A third request filed earlier this month remains pending before Judge Cook.
Attorney Jerry Phillips, who represented Mr. Papenfuse at trial, objected to the judge’s sentence modification in court. He said that he intends to research the issue further.
Mr. Papenfuse told the judge that he intends to live a positive life and agreed to do what he had to do to honor his three friends.
The judge noted in court that she had spoken to family members of the three victims Monday, but they were not at the Tuesday hearing.
“Being in jail for the first time, I don’t ever want to risk myself ever again,” Mr. Papenfuse said. “I want to be a better role model for my brother.”
Jeff Lingo, chief of the criminal division for the prosecutor’s office and the assistant prosecutor who tried the case, told the judge that he did not oppose the modification.
Contact Erica Blake at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.