HILLSDALE - Still recovering from a September traffic accident, Stephen Cain appeared in Hillsdale County Circuit Court yesterday to face charges that he killed the other driver and his unborn child.
Cain had been the first in Hillsdale County to be charged with the death of a fetus in an accident.
Yesterday, Cain, 26, of Hillsdale pleaded no contest to negligent homicide for the death of Michelle Mantyk. In a plea bargain, a charge of negligent operation of a motor vehicle causing a miscarriage was dropped.
Cain faces up to two years in prison and a $2,000 fine. He will be sentenced Feb. 25.
Prosecutors said Cain was driving south with his wife and a child on Milnes Road in Adams Township when he was distracted - reportedly by a spider - and drove into oncoming traffic.
One car swerved around his vehicle before he ran head-on into Ms. Mantyk's vehicle. Autopsy results show the 43-year-old Hillsdale woman died as a result of her injuries.
The crash caused injuries to Cain's wife, Amy, who was 34 weeks pregnant at the time. Court records indicate that the child was dead when Mrs. Cain arrived at the hospital.
Hillsdale County Prosecutor Neal Brady said he used a law that went into effect Jan. 1, 1999, to charge Cain with the death of the unborn child, punishable by up to two years in prison.
He said people need to be held responsible for any life lost. But because Cain was not facing additional jail time if convicted of the second charge, it was dropped during the plea process. “The reason why that particular charge was the one that was dismissed was because the lifelong impact is upon [him] and his wife and his family and for that he, for a certain extent, is paying the consequences. I'm sure that will always have a certain effect on him,” Mr. Brady said.
“Rather than forcing this issue and have him plead guilty to killing his own child, I allowed him to plead no contest to the death of the other motorist.”
Cain has speeding violations dating to 1994 and has been involved in six crashes. Although his driving will not be considered during sentencing, his poor record was a factor in bringing charges against him, Mr. Brady said.
James Hayne, Cain's attorney, said the prosecutor's decision to drop the second charge was appropriate. “The Cains have suffered greatly through the loss of their child,” Mr. Hayne said. “I think what's going on presently in the court case - in terms of the plea of no contest - is not nearly as punitive as what they have already suffered.”