THE BLADE/LORI KING Enlarge | Buy This Photo
When Steven Snow fueled up a gas-powered generator and set it up to provide warmth in Hamilton Street house, it was in a misguided effort to help, a Lucas County common pleas judge said Friday.
"A desperate mother made a decision to keep her home warm and she asked for help," Judge Stacy Cook said. "Mr. Snow thought he was helping. … His actions were misguided and deadly but not because he intended to hurt anyone."
Friday, Snow, 50, of 310 South Ave., was placed on community control, including six months in custody, for his role in the acute carbon-monoxide deaths of Tamara McDaniels and three of her children.
He pleaded no contest and was found guilty last month to four counts of reckless homicide for the deaths of Ms. McDaniel, 39; her son, Damien Reyes, 18, and daughters, Domonique Reyes, 16, and Taralynn Wood, 10.
Snow was convicted of setting up a generator inside the house to power electric space heaters in the living room. The family went to sleep March 22 and never woke up.
"You're error in judgment, while never intending to cause the deaths of a family, did result in the death of Ms. McDaniels and her children," the judge told Snow. "… I do not believe you acted with malicious intent but there has been a loss of life."
Judge Cook then sentenced Snow to three years community control, including six months in the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio and 1,000 hours of community service.
The judge ordered that most of his community service hours be spent in homeless shelters "and assisting disadvantaged people."
Snow was also ordered not to have any contact with the victims' family and that the first 30 days of his incarceration be served in work release.
In a lengthy statement, often spoken directly to the victims' tearful family members, Judge Cook outlined the facts of the case.
She said the house the family was staying in was not suitable to live in, but Snow offered it to Ms. McDaniel, who came to him for help after she had been evicted from her previous home. The home had no working utilities, she said.
Authorities said Snow, who had known Ms. McDaniel for some time, brought the generator to the house on the evening of March 22 and bought gasoline to power it after Ms. McDaniel sent him several text messages telling him they were cold.
Snow told investigators he placed the generator in the kitchen near the stairwell, thinking the fumes would vent upstairs.
The judge noted that two adults -- Snow and Ms. McDaniels -- failed to heed the warnings placed plainly on the generator.
Snow, who wiped tears from his eyes while listening to the judge speak, asked for forgiveness from the victims' family. He said he was simply trying to "help a friend" and noted that he, too, was "scarred" from the deadly result of his actions.
"I didn't mean for any of this to happen," he said.
Three family members spoke in court on behalf of the victims. Although acknowledging that Snow should not spend extended periods of time behind bars, the family asked that he receive some prison time.
"I guess I'd like to see Mr. Snow miss a few milestones -- milestones like the ones we missed," said Ms. McDaniel's niece, Samantha.
Joseph Reyes spoke on behalf of his brother, who lost his children that night. He said Snow should have known the risks associated with the generator.
"We have to remember here that not one life, two lives, three lives but four lives were taken from us that day, innocent children," he said solemnly.
The family declined to comment after the sentencing.
Because of changes in the state sentencing law that went into effect Friday, reckless homicide, which used to be punishable by up to five years in prison, is now punishable by up to three years in prison. Judge Cook warned Snow that he would spend two years in prison if he violated conditions of his community control.
Assistant County Prosecutor Tim Braun said after the sentencing that he believed the sentence was thoughtful and appropriate under the circumstances.
"The intent was to be helpful, not hurtful," he said.
Attorney Scott Schwab told Judge Cook the friendship between Ms. McDaniels and Snow "goes back 20 years."
He said Snow provided the generator with the thought of providing heat to the family and believed it only to be a short-term fix.
He said no one anticipated the "horrible consequence" of his help.
Ms. Schwab said after the hearing he believed the sentence was appropriate. "I think it was a fair sentence from a thoughtful judge who had a difficult decision," he said.
Snow, who left with his family before reporting to work release, declined to comment.
-- Erica Blake