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PORT CLINTON - Ottawa County Common Pleas Judge Bruce Winters took to heart a mother's plea in considering whether the drunken driver who killed her son should be allowed to drive again - only if the driver proves she can stay sober.
Judge Winters yesterday ordered that Terri Camp Kruse be monitored for three years by the county probation department with weekly, random drug and alcohol tests and continuous electronic monitoring. "Any consumption of alcohol or illicit drugs or occasions of driving during this period will remove the matter from further consideration," Judge Winters wrote in a five-page decision.
Kruse, 45, of Woodville had asked the court to reinstate her driving privileges some 17 years after she struck a car driven by Jane Ann Miller of Oregon, killing Mrs. Miller's 14-year-old son, Ronald Miller, Jr.
Kruse, who was convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide for the April 3, 1993, crash, was given a 10-year prison sentence and a lifetime license suspension.
Mrs. Miller told the court at an April 30 hearing on Kruse's motion that she would not oppose a renewal of Kruse's driving privileges if she proved her sobriety over several years. Yesterday, she said the judge's decision seemed fair.
"I felt that if I adamantly opposed it, we would be let down. I think that what I came up with in court was fair, and I think we need to have proof and the people that live in that community need to have proof," she said.
"I think the judge listened," Mrs. Miller said. "When he asked me the questions point-blank, there were tears in his eyes. When I saw that, I thought he's hearing what I'm saying."
Judge Winters ordered that Kruse return to court May 17, 2013, at which time the court "will consider what if any driving privileges will be granted and what if any restrictions might be put into place including but not limited to: further review hearings, limitations as to time and purpose of driving, insurance coverage requirements, and any other restrictions the court finds necessary."
Bill Hayes, Kruse's attorney, said he was pleased.
"I am very satisfied with the decision that the judge rendered," he said. "Terri is going to fully comply with the orders of the court and is looking forward to doing that."
During the April hearing, Kruse and others testified that she has not taken a drink since she entered prison in October, 1993; attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings frequently; speaks at out-of-state AA gatherings, and works as an optician in Woodville.
Still, she admitted under oath she had driven without a license on at least one occasion since her release from prison when her husband, Eric, was too intoxicated to drive, and she saw no other way for them to safely get home.
Christy Cole, a special prosecutor assigned to the case, said it will be essential that Kruse demonstrate to the court over the next three years that she does not drink - or drive.
"Our judicial system is all about rehabilitation and paying your debt to society," she said. "If she in the next three years does what the court asks her to do, I think it's very fair to come back and reconsider reinstating her license."
Judge Winters said in his decision that he suspects the court in 1993 suspended her license for life in part because Kruse at the time was "an unrepentant and raging alcoholic," and the public needed to be protected from future harm.
"The defendant herein has shown evidence of rehabilitation and, in fact, if her testimony is to be believed, has done nearly everything which might best ensure her continued sobriety," he wrote.
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