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Published: Saturday, 3/1/2008

DUI conviction in cyclist's death tossed


BOWLING GREEN - An appeals court has reversed the conviction of a Rossford man accused two years ago of striking two bicyclists, killing one and injuring the other, on State Rt. 65 just north of Five Point Road.

Ohio's 6th District Court of Appeals yesterday vacated the conviction of David O'Neill, 63, for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, aggravated vehicular homicide, and aggravated vehicular assault stemming from a Jan. 15, 2006, hit-skip crash that killed Dr. Stephen Snedden, 47, and injured George Haig, 49, both of Perrysburg.

O'Neill pleaded no contest to and was found guilty in Wood County Common Pleas Court to the three charges and to failure to stop after an accident.

He was sentenced to 12 years in prison by Judge Alan Mayberry, who suspended his driver's license for life and ordered him to pay $10,733 in restitution.

In the opinion written by Judge William Skow, the appellate court said the prosecution had not proved that the blood draw procedure used when O'Neill's blood was taken at St. Luke's Hospital after the crash complied with state regulations.

"After a defendant challenges the validity of test results in a pretrial motion, the state has the burden to show that the test was administered in substantial compliance with the regulations prescribed by the Director of Health," Judge Skow wrote.

Because it did not, the appeals court said, the blood-alcohol test results should have been suppressed.

Gwen Howe-Gebers, a Wood County assistant prosecutor, said she was researching whether prosecutors would need to present the case against O'Neill to a grand jury for a new indictment or whether they could bring him back and try him on the original indictment.

O'Neill's attorney, Spiros Cocoves, could not be reached for comment .

Ms. Howe-Gebers said O'Neill will not be getting out of prison because of the ruling.

The appeals court upheld O'Neill's conviction and four-year prison sentence for failure to stop after an accident.

It also affirmed the rest of his sentence, including the order that he be placed in solitary confinement every Jan. 15 and shown a video of Dr. Snedden's memorial service.

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