When I first learned of Michelle Kazlausky's tragic death while riding in the 2010 Pelotonia raising money for cancer, I was hit on several different levels. First, many of my friends volunteered, trained for, and rode on this charitable bike tour. I couldn't immediately learn the identity of the victim. Once I heard that it was not a friend of mine, I was very saddened to hear what a wonderful person Michelle was. Also, this traffic death hit pretty close to home because I love to bike and this is one of my favorite areas of rural Ohio in which to spend time with my family.
The news quickly came out that the motorist, Ervin Blackston, blatantly disregarded the warning signs and directions of a trooper who was controlling the intersection. Having been involved in too many of these types of cases, my gut told me drugs or alcohol were not involved. If that was the case, he would be indicted for Aggravated Vehicular Homicide Either the motorist had a medical condition or equipment problems. The story then broke that the motorist had faulty brakes which led to him not being able to stop.
Under Ohio law, we are all 100% responsible for the condition of our vehicles. Vehicular manslaughter is a misdemeanor charge when a death occurs as a proximate result of a motorist's failure to abide by a traffic or equipment statute. In this case, the faulty brakes is the underlying misdemeanor and because it was the proximate cause of Michelle's death, the driver was charged with a misdemeanor count of Vehicular Manslaughter.
It will be interesting to see how the State of Ohio and Hocking County Municipal Court judge deals with Mr. Blackston's case. All the State of Ohio has to do is prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Blackston failed to keep his brakes in proper and working order thereby leading to Michelle's death. That part of the case seems straight forward. However, punishment is what I am curious to see.
I don't know Mr. Blackston's driving history, but if he has a decent record, it is very unlikely he will serve any jail. I would expect a license suspension and probation. We will probably know by the end of the year.