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Published: Tuesday, 6/26/2007

Whitmer grad admits guilt in fatal Bedford Township car chase

Former Bedford school board member Randy Krell, left, is on trial in Monroe County for his role in a fatal crash. Former Bedford school board member Randy Krell, left, is on trial in Monroe County for his role in a fatal crash.

MONROE - It was a summer night, and five high school friends were cruising along Sterns Road in Bedford Township, winding down after a few pranks in Toledo.

On the way to drop the two girls off at home, a couple of the guys decided to liven things up. They began throwing plastic water bottles at the oncoming cars.

Prosecutors charged in Monroe County Circuit Court yesterday that former Bedford school board member Randy Krell chased the teenagers at speeds up to 85 mph through Bedford after one of the teens hit his car with a plastic bottle.

"We were kind of scared," Carl Ziegler, 18, one of the boys in the car and the first to throw a water bottle, testified yesterday. "I was kind of excited, kind of scared. I wasn't sure what was going on."

Oberle Oberle

He testified that as Mr. Krell chased him and his friends, Mr. Krell's car was so close that its headlights illuminated the interior of their car as Mr. Krell gained on them.

The chase led to Clegg Road, where Mr. Ziegler testified that both cars ran a stop sign at Adler Road. The car driven by Austin Oberle, then 17, slid through the next intersection at Clegg and Whiteford Center Road, hitting a tree off the west side of Whiteford Center.

The crash killed Charlie Fackelman, 17, of Toledo, and severely injured Stevie Beale, now 18, of Bedford.

"I don't really remember much about after the crash," Mr. Ziegler said. "I didn't really realize I was bleeding until a while afterwards."

"So how do you know you were bleeding?" asked Mr. Krell's attorney, William Godfroy.

"There was blood going across the trunk of the car as I walked by, so I must have been," Mr. Ziegler responded.

County Prosecutor William Paul Nichols asked potential jurors whether any of them "ever had had any experience with road rage," and whether "anyone had been involved with criminal mischief by young adults."

Before the trial began, Austin Oberle, 18, pleaded guilty to two felonies for his role in the fatal June 15, 2006, crash. Oberle, a recent Whitmer High School graduate, pleaded guilty to felonious driving and negligent homicide.

"Austin decided to take responsibility," said Oberle's attorney, Robert A. Manion. "He was Charlie Fackelman's best friend and Stevie Beale was his close friend."

Oberle had been charged with vehicle manslaughter and felonious driving.

Those charges carried a maximum of 15 years in prison He now faces up to two years in prison.

The trial against Mr. Krell, who has pleaded not guilty to vehicle manslaughter and felonious driving charges, will resume today.

"This case is far from routine," Prosecutor Nichols told the 12 jurors and two alternates yesterday.

"Much like an event - a wedding day, the birthday of a child or grandchild - this is a case you will remember the rest of your lives because it is not ordinary.

"A series of tragic events and tragic decisions were made," Mr. Nichols said.

The trial is being heard by Chief Circuit Judge Michael W. LaBeau.

Contact Benjamin Alexander-Bloch at: babloch@theblade.com 419-724-6168.

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