Brian Hoeflinger, 18, died in a car crash on Feb. 2 after drinking at a party at a friend’s home in Ottawa Hills.
COPY PHOTO/ANDY MORRISON
More than six months after an Ottawa Hills High School student was killed in a drunken-driving crash, the clerk at a liquor store was indicted Friday for allegedly selling a bottle of vodka to the teen’s underage friend.
Nicholas Thompson, 38, of 340 S. Reynolds Rd., was indicted by a Lucas County grand jury on a charge of selling or furnishing intoxicating liquor to a minor, an unclassified misdemeanor punishable by a mandatory fine of $500 and a possible jail term of up to six months. According to state law, the fine could be $1,000.
Mr. Thompson, an employee of Foxx Liquor Store, 5341 Dorr St., is charged with selling the alcohol Feb. 1 to a friend of Brian Hoeflinger, 18, who was killed that night after drinking at a friend’s birthday party and then driving.
Mr. Hoeflinger was southbound on Edgehill Road in Ottawa Hills about 11:30 p.m. His car went off the road, struck a tree, and caught fire. His blood-alcohol level was 0.15 percent, nearly double the legal limit for drivers age 21 or older.
Court records show this was the second time in five months that Mr. Thompson allegedly sold alcohol to a minor at Foxx Liquor. He was cited in Toledo Municipal Court for selling beer to a person under 21 on Sept. 8, 2012, pleaded guilty, and was ordered to pay a $150 fine and court costs.
Brian Hoyt, a spokesman for the Ohio Division of Liquor Control, said Friday that once the latest criminal case is adjudicated, the division will look at whether to impose any sanctions on Foxx Liquor Store’s state liquor agency contract. Penalties could range from nothing to a suspension or a termination of the contract, Mr. Hoyt said.
An employee who answered the phone at Foxx Liquor Friday said no one from the store would comment.
Jeff Lingo, chief of the criminal division for the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office, said a more serious charge could not be filed against Mr. Thompson because prosecutors could not show it would be “reasonably foreseeable” for the clerk who sold the alcohol to another person to know it would result in Mr. Hoeflinger’s death.
Charges also will not be brought against the homeowners where the Feb. 1 party took place, he said.
“They would only be charged if there was evidence that they knew that alcohol was being served, and at this point we are not aware of any evidence that that was the case,” Mr. Lingo said. “We talked to them, and we talked to a number of kids who were there who all say [the parents] did not know.”
Dr. Brian Hoeflinger, whose son died in the crash, said Friday that he and his wife, Cindy, would like to see changes in the way the laws are written.
“My wife and I are going to get involved, and we would like to change things for the positive, for the better,” he said. “We’re not trying to blame anyone. What we’re trying to do is make the public aware of these laws that need to be changed.”
Since their son’s death, the Hoeflingers have been speaking to school groups to implore students not to drink, not to get into a car with anyone who has been drinking. They are also asking parents to supervise gatherings at their homes to make sure teenagers are not drinking.
The Hoeflingers also have set up a memorial fund in their son’s honor through the Toledo Community Foundation to provide money to Toledo-area projects and programs aimed at helping young people who want to succeed and help others. More information about the fund and the Hoeflingers’ message is available at a Web site they created, brianmatters.com.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.