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Published: Friday, 3/17/2006

Motorist indicted in death of jogger

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - A Wood County man who allegedly struck and killed a Bowling Green attorney in January has been indicted on charges of vehicular homicide and drug abuse.

David W. Harris, 36, of Bairdstown could be sentenced to up to 30 months in prison for causing the death of Jodie Stearns.

Ms. Stearns, 47, was jogging along the edge of Emerson Road in southern Wood County about 8:30 a.m. Jan. 11 when Harris' car struck her.

Harris, who has been jailed since the accident on a parole violation, is to be arraigned at 11:30 this morning before Judge Alan Mayberry of Wood County Common Pleas Court.

The vehicular homicide charge, a fourth-degree felony, includes a specification that Harris previously was convicted of felonious assault. He served more than 11 years in prison for intentionally striking and injuring a bicyclist in Bowling Green in 1993.

County Prosecutor Ray Fischer said he would have preferred more serious charges but lacked proof that Harris ran into Ms. Stearns on purpose.

"We don't have the evidence to prove aggravated vehicular homicide," Mr. Fischer said after the indictment was filed. "Obviously, I can't manufacture evidence, no matter how hard I wish in this case."

The prosecutor said Harris was charged with drug abuse, a fifth-degree felony because a urine test administered to him after the Jan. 11 crash showed traces of cocaine in his system.

"We had analysts look at it, and they cannot say with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that it impaired his driving," Mr. Fischer said.

Drew Griffith, an attorney for Harris, said he expected to have discussions with the prosecutor about a possible plea bargain.

"I was not surprised that these were the charges that were returned," Mr. Griffith said. "We'll see what we've got. The case is in its early stages, and I'm really just getting acquainted with the facts alleged."

Harris has a long criminal record, including convictions for forgery, escape, receiving stolen property, aggravated assault, and felonious assault. In 1991, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for stabbing a prostitute in Lima, Ohio.

He was paroled in December, 2003, after serving more than nine years of his sentence for striking the bicyclist.

He was returned to prison March 18, 2005, then released again Nov. 7, two months before the crash that killed Ms. Stearns.



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