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Published: Saturday, 1/16/2010

Toledo driver gets 10 years for hit-skip death

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Jose Garcia made a series of bad choices on the night he hit a bicyclist with his car, but the "cruelest and most heinous choice" he made last January was to leave Floyd Williamson "lying in a cold, dark street," a Lucas County Common Pleas judge said yesterday.

"You have immeasurably impacted this family for life," Judge James Jensen told Garcia. "Neither the Williamson family nor you will ever know whether you could have saved him that night."

Garcia, 28, of 314 Somerset St. was sentenced to a total of 10 years in prison for the Jan. 25 hit-skip death of Mr. Williamson. He pleaded no contest Dec. 7 to one count each of aggravated vehicular assault and failing to stop after an accident.

Authorities said Mr. Williamson, 43, of 414 Clyde St. was riding his bicycle near Idaho Street and Dover Place early that day. Family members told police Mr. Williamson left home about 5 a.m. to go to a convenience store. His body was found in the street just before 6 a.m.

His sister, Tamara Bolfa, tearfully told Judge Jensen her family is devastated knowing he was left "like an animal in the street," despite being within a few blocks of a hospital and a few houses from her own.

"He faced death alone," she said. "There were so many homes within 20 steps. But [Garcia] selfishly left him to die."

Mr. Williamson was struck from behind by a car and died of cranial and cerebral injuries. Authorities said he was riding on the street because snow was on the sidewalks. He did not have lights on the bike and was not wearing a helmet.

Assistant County Prosecutor Jeff Lingo said at Garcia's plea hearing he drank eight beers and shots of liquor earlier in the night. Witnesses said Garcia had been in an argument because he wanted to take his children from the home of a woman who baby-sat them.

His girlfriend and the mother of his children refused because she believed he was too intoxicated, Mr. Lingo said.

After leaving the house, where he had a physical altercation with his girlfriend, Garcia struck Mr. Williamson. He turned himself in after more than 24 hours, Mr. Lingo said.

Judge Jensen sentenced Garcia to six years in prison for the aggravated vehicular homicide and four years for the failure to stop. He ordered the sentences to be served consecutively and suspended Garcia's driver's license for life.

Garcia told Judge Jensen he has been "haunted" by what occurred and wanted to reach out to the family but was advised not to do so. He then turned to face Mr. Williamson's family.

"I know an apology doesn't bring Mr. Williamson back," he said tearfully. "It does haunt me. I ask for forgiveness."

Attorney George Gerken told the judge that Garcia got scared after hitting the bicyclist and made a "bad decision." He said not knowing whether Mr. Williamson could have been saved had he stayed will remain heavy on his mind.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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