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A Sylvania man was sentenced yesterday to two years in prison for killing a 15-year-old Springfield High School freshman in May with his car as she and a friend walked along Bancroft Street in Sylvania Township.
Michael Gintoli, 22, of 5936 Granville Drive, who last month pleaded no contest to and was found guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide, wiped tears from his face in Lucas County Common Pleas Court as Judge Charles Doneghy imposed the sentence.
The judge also suspended Gintoli's driver's license for 10 years.
Gintoli faced a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Jessica Humphreys was struck about 6:25 p.m. May 21 by Gintoli's car, which went off the the road. She died later in Medical College of Ohio Hospitals.
As Judge Doneghy conducted yesterday's proceedings, family and friends of Miss Humphrey and Gintoli fought back tears.
"This is one of the most difficult category of cases this court faces," the judge said, noting that the case in question was a matter of "just such difficulty."
"The defendant faces some troubling days ahead," the judge said.
Jerome Phillips, Gintoli's attorney, told the court that "obviously, the victim's family suffered the ultimate loss."
However, he pleaded with the judge for a proportional sentence, pointing out that his client, a University of Toledo student at the time of the mishap, had since undergone psychological counselling to help him deal with the troubling circumstances in which he found himself.
Judge Doneghy said that, in making his decision, he considered the defendant's background and his family background.
But the judge hastened to add that a prison term had to be served to avoid the general feeling he has that today's youth trivialize such matters of substance abuse and driving while intoxicated.
"The shortest prison term would demean the seriousness of this case," the judge said.
Ohio Highway Patrol troopers found a hollowed-out cigar containing marijuana on the floor of the defendant's car after the accident.
Gintoli told authorities he smoked marijuana two days before the accident. He tested positive for marijuana, but toxicology experts were not able to determine whether he was under the influence of the drug when he hit and killed Miss Humphreys.
Gintoli was convicted Jan. 17, 2003 in Sylvania Municipal Court of drunk driving and was sentenced to a three-day DUI program, $300 fine, and a six-month license suspension.
Gintoli, in a brief statement before sentencing, said he regretted the events that led to the death of Miss Humphreys and is sorry for the pain his actions caused her family and his.
Pamela Humphreys, the victim's mother, also read a statement in which she detailed how her family and friends continue to suffer.
"Jessica lost her life and we, her parents, her family, and friends, all lost a wonderful daughter, sister, granddaughter, and friend and all of us are suffering," Ms. Humphreys said. "All of us have an empty place in our lives where this wonderful girl formerly lived."
More than 20 of young Humphreys' family and friends were in court to witness the sentencing.
Sierra Yglesias, 15, who was walking with young Humphreys when she was struck, said she still remembered everything.
"We were just talking and laughing, and it seemed really quiet for a split two seconds," explained the Springfield High School sophomore who said she misses her best friend every day.
"We never realized just how many people she touched in her short life," Miss Humphreys' grandfather, Ed Hamlet, said. "We feel a great loss today."