Despite tearful pleas from a Point Place couple who lost their son and their nephew in a 2010 drunken-driving crash, Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Stacy Cook on Thursday granted early release from prison for one of the drivers involved.
Paul Never, 71, of Ottawa Lake was granted judicial release from his four-year prison sentence after serving 18 months. Judge Cook ordered him to spend the first 60 days at the Community Treatment Facility in Toledo followed by four months in the county’s work-release program.
Bryan and Suzanne Richardson, whose son Bryan, Jr., died in the crash, told the court Never had not spent enough time in prison. Prosecutors also opposed his release.
“I find it unacceptable that you’ve only served six months for each soul, for each child,” Mr. Richardson said. “I miss my son. I don’t know what else to say to you.”
Toledo cousins Bryan Richardson, Jr., 20, and Bradley Richardson, Jr., 21, and their friend Noah McFadden, 23, of Sylvania were killed Oct. 21, 2010, when a car driven by Noel Papenfuse, now 23, of Toledo crashed into Never’s pickup on North Detroit Avenue.
Accident reconstructionists determined Mr. Papenfuse was driving 79 mph in a 45-mph zone when he saw Never backing into the street and applied his brakes. Never, who was leaving Club Chablis, was legally drunk with a blood-alcohol level of 0.13 percent.
Mrs. Richardson told the court she can’t forgive him. “I wonder now why he wants to be home with his family so bad now. I only wish he wanted to be home with his family the night of Oct. 21,” Mrs. Richardson said, adding that her son was not driving that night, that he made sure there was a designated driver, and that he had no control over Mr. Papenfuse’s speed.
“My son was a lot more mature than a 69-year-old father, grandfather, and former EMT who should have known better than to drive drunk, and I cannot accept an apology from a coward who cannot even serve out his sentence like a man,” she said.
Never did not make a statement, but his attorney, Richard Hasbrook, asked the court to release Never on conditions much as it did for Mr. Papenfuse in January. He said his client consumed no alcohol in the nine months while he was on bail before he went to prison and has had a clean record in prison.
“My client was 69 years old when the tragic accident occurred. He is 71 today,” Mr. Hasbrook said. “He had never served time before and it’s very difficult of course given his age to do that in a largely younger population.”
Judge Cook said repeatedly it was a tragedy for all involved, one with alcohol at its core. “Everything about this case is avoidable if people don’t drink and drive,” the judge said.
Without minimizing that Never got behind the wheel while intoxicated, the judge said Mr. Papenfuse’s speed and his “extreme and utter recklessness” were largely to blame. Mr. Papenfuse was acquitted by a jury of felony charges but convicted of three misdemeanor counts of vehicular homicide and sentenced to 1½ years at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio.
“Two men met that night. Three boys lost their lives,” Judge Cook said. “Those three boys certainly tried to the best of their ability to place a designated driver in place. They were significantly let down by their friend and their friend’s actions.
“Had Mr. Never not been in the street, you’re right, there wouldn’t have been that impact,” Judge Cook said. “But I don’t know what would’ve happened with the way that rocket was traveling through this community.”
Judge Cook placed Never on community control for five years, ordered him to abstain from drugs and alcohol, attend three Alcoholics Anonymous meetings weekly, and perform 200 hours of community service.
He also must wear an alcohol monitor for two years.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.