PORT CLINTON — After Terri Camp Kruse killed a 14-year-old boy in a drunken-driving crash in 1993, she was sent to prison for 10 years and banned from driving ever again.
On Friday, Ottawa County Common Pleas Judge Bruce Winters lifted that ban, granting Kruse limited driving privileges.
Kruse, 48, of Woodville was convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide for causing a crash on State Rt. 51 that killed Ronald Miller, Jr., of Oregon. It was her third drunken-driving conviction.
“I suspect that the judge that sentenced you to a lifetime suspension saw that you were a raging and unrepentant alcoholic at that time, and you were,” Judge Winters told Kruse before announcing his decision. “That’s not the case now.”
The judge noted that there was no evidence Kruse has consumed alcohol since entering prison 20 years ago. She has been active with Alcoholics Anonymous, he said, and she tested negative for drugs and alcohol 274 times since 2010 when she first petitioned the court to get her license back.
Judge Winters also pointed out the victim’s mother said she would not oppose restoration of Kruse’s driving privileges if she proved her sobriety to the court.
“Terri Camp Kruse has done 10 years in prison, gone 20 years without driving, and it appears that she’s done everything she can do to ensure us that she’s not going to drink,” the judge said. “She’s been very active in regaining and maintaining her sobriety.”
Judge Winters said Kruse may drive to and from work, to medical appointments, and to AA meetings and other sobriety-related events. He said she may only drive between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m., and he told her that she will continue to be subject to random drug and alcohol testing and that she must report any driving offenses to the court.
“No punishment can ever be enough, I understand that, but at this point I think what we’re doing is fair, reasonable, and justified,” the judge said.
Jane Miller of Oregon said after the hearing that she agreed.
“I think the judge was very, very fair in his decision. I don’t think he made light of the situation,” she said. “I think he gave it a great deal of thought, and you could tell by his demeanor, his eyes, his emotions, his hesitance.”
Ohio law allows someone with a lifetime driver’s license ban to petition the court for driving privileges after 15 years with no other convictions. Mrs. Miller said she did not think Kruse’s 10 years in prison should have counted toward those 15 years, but other than that she was satisfied with Judge Winters' ruling. She said she’s glad Kruse has gotten sober.
“It’s a shame that it took my son’s life for her to straighten hers out,” Mrs. Miller said. “I wouldn’t have wished it on anyone else either.”
Mrs. Miller was driving her son and two other boys home from a dance April 3, 1993, when Kruse’s car swerved left of center and struck them.
Christy Cole, a special prosecutor assigned to the case, objected to the restoration of driving privileges, in part because Kruse had two prior DUI convictions before the fatal crash. She said afterward that she would have preferred to see that Kruse never be back on the road, but she thought the decision was fair given the circumstances.
“I do think the Miller family thought it was fair and, as a prosecutor, that’s what’s important to me — to know the victim’s family is satisfied and feels justice was done.”
Julie Leggett, executive director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving in northern Ohio, said the same.
“In these situations it really is where the family stands,” she said. “We want the court to take their feelings into consideration, but never to grant full driving privileges back. Lifetime should mean lifetime.”
William Hayes, attorney for Kruse, had asked for full driving privileges but said he and his client were satisfied.
“She’s happy that the judge thought enough of her to grant these privileges,” he said.
Retired Judge Paul Moon, who imposed the lifetime driving ban in 1993, said Friday that he did not recall the case and would not comment on Judge Winters’ decision.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.