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Published: Wednesday, 11/1/2006

Truck driver gets 90 days in jail for fatal Turnpike crash

BOWLING GREEN - An Arkansas truck driver who last year slammed into a line of stopped vehicles on the Ohio Turnpike, killing a Pennsylvania woman, was sentenced yesterday to 90 days in jail.

Peggy Sue Derryberry, 54, of Dover, Ark., burst into tears after Wood County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Pollex imposed her sentence for a misdemeanor count of vehicular homicide.

Saying that "nothing would bring back the victim," Judge Pollex suspended Ms. Derryberry's driver's license for two years and ordered her to pay a $1,000 fine and restitution for any of the victim's $118,906 in medical bills that were not covered by insurance. He also placed her on probation for two years.

Judge Pollex found Ms. Derryberry guilty of vehicular homicide after a two-day trial in September. She had been indicted on a felony charge of aggravated vehicular homicide, but Judge Pollex ruled that her conduct was negligent, not reckless.

Michele Williams, 56, of Homer City, Pa., was killed in the six-vehicle pileup Aug. 12, 2005, on the turnpike near the I-75 exit at Rossford.

Ms. Derryberry, who was team-driving a semi with her husband, testified that she moved into the right lane and suddenly found herself behind a line of vehicles stopped and waiting to exit the turnpike. She slammed on the brakes but couldn't stop in time.

Her attorney, Jerome Phillips, said Ms. Derryberry had been a safe truck driver for 10 years. Prior to that, she had driven a school bus and had been recognized for her safety record.

"This was an accident, not a negligent act," he told the judge before sentencing. "There were no alcohol or drugs or speed" involved.

He said Ms. Derryberry has stopped driving a truck and does not intend to do so again.

Aram Ohanian, a Wood County assistant prosecutor, recommended the 90-day sentence based on witness accounts of Ms. Derryberry cutting them off prior to the crash "and the serious consequences" of her actions.

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