A Toledo man who got behind the wheel after taking a higher-than-prescribed dose of his prescription painkiller was convicted Monday of charges stemming from the death of a Cleveland-area woman last year.
Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Myron Duhart found Michael Yates, 42, of 1128 Ironwood Ave., guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide in the July 21, 2012, death of Stefanie Arnold, 27, of Painesville, Ohio, and vehicular assault for striking and injuring Chelsea Skoch, 24, of Madison, Ohio, who was walking with Mrs. Arnold from the Days Inn to the Hollywood Casino when they were struck.
Family members of the victims shed tears of joy and relief as the guilty verdicts were read following a two-day bench trial last week. Yates, who also wept, faces two to 11 years in prison when he is sentenced on Nov. 5 by Judge Duhart.
The judge said no evidence or testimony was presented to support defense attorney Jon Richardson’s contention that Yates fell asleep as he was driving east on Miami Street that evening because of the unforeseen effect of his prescription painkiller. Prosecutors contended he was impaired and driving on a suspended license at the time.
Judge Duhart said Yates clearly had been reckless when he took the medication and drove a car, adding, “Mr. Yates, this court cannot overlook the fact that if you had followed the law and/or the court order preventing you from driving, you would have never been behind the wheel of that car on that day at the time with those people walking to the casino. Ms. Arnold would still be here today, and Ms. Skoch would not have been injured.”
Mrs. Arnold’s younger sister, Marissa Von Gunten, 23, said afterward that she was “extremely pleased” with the verdict and hoped the court would impose the maximum sentence.
“If he’s able to serve the max time consecutive for both girls that would be the best possible outcome because that’s more time he won’t be on the street to hurt anybody else,” she said.
Jeff Lingo, chief of the criminal division for the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office, said justice was served.
“We believe this sends a clear message that driving while impaired and causing the death of another in Lucas County will be vigorously prosecuted,” he said.
Yates was permitted to remain free on bond.
Ms. Von Gunten said a 5K run in memory of her sister will be Saturday at Lake Erie College in Painesville where her sister got a degree in criminal justice. Proceeds are to benefit a scholarship fund in her sister’s name at the college.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.