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Published: Tuesday, 7/30/2013 - Updated: 12 months ago

COURTS

Wrong-way drunk driver gets 8 years

Michigan man gets maximum sentence in Toledoan’s death

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Adam Tunison addresses the victim’s family during his sentencing in Lucas County Common Pleas Court. Adam Tunison addresses the victim’s family during his sentencing in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.
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A devoted son and caring friend, Juan Garcia, Jr., bartended for a living but did not let his friends or himself drive if they'd had too much to drink, his mother recalled.

Asking the court to do what it thought best with the drunk driver who killed her son, Maria Garcia cried Tuesday as Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Frederick McDonald handed down the maximum sentence to Adam Tunison: eight years in prison and a lifetime driver’s license suspension.

Tunsion, 42, of LaSalle, Mich., had consumed eight mixed drinks and nine shots of liquor at Chuck’s on Monroe over a three-hour period before getting behind the wheel early Christmas morning and driving north in the southbound lanes of I-75. Tunison slammed into Mr. Garcia’s car as he was returning to Toledo from midnight Mass in Michigan. Mr. Garcia, 26, of Toledo was pronounced dead at the scene.

Judge McDonald said Tunison had convictions for drunken driving, had worked as a bartender, and should have known better.

“I do not impose the maximum sentence allowed by law lightly. I don’t do it very often,” the judge said. “I feel that the maximum sentence should only be imposed in the most egregious cases — the worst of the worst — and this case fits in that category.”

Tunison, who has been held in the Lucas County jail since April, again appeared in court in a wheelchair. His attorney, Theodore Tucker, III, said Tunison suffered a crushed ankle and foot in the Dec. 25 crash, a daily reminder of it.

“Perhaps most importantly, the emotional turmoil with regard to him living with the facts of what occurred here is never out of his mind,” Mr. Tucker said. “He realizes he brought some unimaginable pain to the family of the young man who lost his life.”

Tunison, who had worked at the Hollywood Casino, apologized to his family and to the Garcias.

“I can’t express enough how truly sorry I am to the Garcia family,” he said. “I don’t expect it, but I can only hope that one day you can find a way to forgive me.”

Concepcion Eason, Latino outreach office coordinator of the Lucas County Victim Assistance program, read Mrs. Garcia’s statement for her, as English is a second language for Maria and Juan Garcia, Sr., who moved to Toledo from Mexico. Mrs. Garcia referred to her son in Spanish.

“Mijo was a very kind, hard-working, generous, and loving person,” Mrs. Garcia said, explaining that he had purchased Christmas gifts for every family member and friend, and even for his regular customers at Zia’s, the East Toledo restaurant where he worked as a bartender. “He said, ‘They treat me good, and I appreciate them. I want them to know that and remember me.’”

He was excited to be hosting his family for Christmas dinner at his new apartment, she said. He was the event planner, interpreter, and jokester.

“Everything has changed without our son,” Mrs. Garcia said. “We were angry, yet we pity Adam Tunison — a man with schooling and a family — doing such stupid, stupid things. ... He cannot begin to know the harm he has caused to so many people.”

A person with a lifetime driver’s license suspension may petition the court for restored driving privileges after 15 years with no other convictions.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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