MONROE, Mich. A Monroe County jury found former Bedford school board member Randy Krell guilty of negligent homicide today for his role in the fatal crash last June that caused the death of Charlie Fackelman, 17.
Krell, 52, was charged by police and prosecutors with chasing a car full of teenagers at high speeds throughout Bedford Township on June 15, 2006, after one of the teens threw a water bottle that hit his windshield.
The car he was chasing, driven by Auston Oberle, of Toledo, crashed into a tree at Whiteford Center and Clegg roads. Young Fackelman was killed in the crash, and Stevie Beale, of Bedford Township, was severely injured.
Oberle pleaded guilty Monday to two felonies resulting from his role in the crash.
Sentencing for Krell and Oberle has been set for Aug. 16. They both face up to two years in state prison.
The June 15, 2006, chase ended when the car driven by Austin Oberle ran a stop sign and hit a tree off the west side of Whiteford Center Road.
The crash killed young Fackelman, of Toledo, and severely injured Stevie Beale, who is now 18, of Bedford Township.
"This is a serious case, it deserves serious attention," Mr. Nichols told the jury. "It is a case that you will never forget."
He then explained to the jury that there are certain rules in determining guilt or innocence.
"You determine the facts and you apply the law," he said. "And when you do that, there is only one outcome that you can come to: that Mr. Krell is guilty."
And he cautioned the jury not to believe Krell s version of events.
"It is not believable. It doesn t make sense. It borders on being ridiculous," he said. "The defense comes up with their defense, their facts, and you have to believe whether it is believable or not, that is your job."
Krell yesterday testified that he was driving with his dog east on Sterns Road on his way to a restaurant on Alexis Road in Toledo when an object bounced off his car windshield. He said he was neither angry nor upset after the object hit his car.
"Is that reasonable? You are hit by a bottle at 11 p.m. at night and you are not angry?" Mr. Nichols said during his closing remarks, questioning Mr. Krell s previous testimony.
Krell said he saw out of his side-view mirror that the tail lights on the car from which the bottle was thrown were similar to those on a car owned by one of his neighbor s daughters.
So he drove by his neighbor s house on Hazel Drive in Lambertville, but the neighbor was not home.
Krell said because his night had already been sidetracked, he decided to forgo his trip to the restaurant and instead chose to drive down Clegg Road.
"My dog likes riding with the window down, so I decided to let the dog stick her head out the window and give her a ride around the block," Krell said yesterday.
Mr. Nichols today questioned whether that version of events is reasonable to believe.
"He didn t stop his car. He didn t check for damage to his vehicle. Instead he decides, Well, I might as well take my dog on a ride around the block, " Mr. Nichols said. "And all of a sudden he decides not to go to Taco Bell after all, despite the fact that his wife is at home waiting for the taco salad?"
The three-term Bedford school board member said that while driving around the block, he saw Oberle s car, which was now smashed against a tree.
And he said that explains why witnesses clearly place him at the scene of the accident.
Mr. Nichols this morning concluded by questioning Krell s character.
"He s the adult. He was 51. He should have known better," he said.
Krell s attorney William Godfroy said the burden of proof is on the prosecutor and that jury members should not let their emotions get involved.
"I know it is hard. It tears at your guts. You feel sorry for Stevie, you feel sorry for Charlie, but those are emotions, and you can t let emotions get involved," Mr. Godfroy said.
Oberle had been charged with vehicular manslaughter and felonious driving felonies that could have carried 15 years in prison but because of his plea, he could be sentenced to up to two years in prison.
Mr. Godfroy also managed to throw into question almost all the other witnesses testimony by discussing the conflicts of friendship, noting the boys in the car were best friends and one of the girls was dating Oberle.
"If your friend is in trouble you try to minimize his involvement and point the blame on somebody else," he said. "It is only human nature, it is only natural."
Mr. Nichols said Mr. Godfroy was simply trying "to distract" the jury from its job.
Chief Circuit Court Judge Michael W. LaBeau gave the jury some legal advice before their deliberation.
"You must look at each of the facts the witnesses gave and decide which you believe," the judge said. "It is your job to decide what the facts in the case are."
Contact Benjamin Alexander-Bloch
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