Tears flow, held back as woman sentenced

LISBON – Choking back tears, Jerry Bibbee expressed words of forgiveness Wednesday for the woman who caused the death of his wife.

Amanda Bibbee died last April when a car driven by Deborah Eells went left of center on state Route 7, resulting in a head-on collision.

Eells, 58, Dyke Road, Rogers, was in Columbiana County Municipal Court for sentencing by Judge Mark Frost for the vehicular manslaughter charge she had previously pleaded no contest to on Feb. 26, amended from the original vehicular homicide charge.

While saying his family is destroyed, Bibbee also said he understands how hard being responsible for another person’s death can be. Bibbee is a veteran.

“I know what it’s like to take a life,” Bibbee said. “I know how it feels. I don’t know of any sentence the court can give her, if she has any conscience at all, that can be worse than that feeling. I forgave her.”

Eells’ attorney, Michael McGee, said his client has been in counseling since the accident, something she never required before.

Assistant County Prosecutor Tammie Riley Jones read a statement from Penny Ludwig, Amanda Bibbee’s mother. Ludwig was sitting in the courtroom, but asked the statement be read for her due to her emotions.

“I just want you to know I have forgave you, not for you but for me,” Ludwig’s statement read.

She added she is thankful for the two grandchildren Amanda Bibbee gave her, a 3-year-old boy and a 7-year-girl, children who were in the accident as well, yet survived.

“I have two other daughters,” Ludwig continued. “This has taught me to love them more everyday … You have your daughter, but you took mine.”

Eells was also in tears took the stand and addressed the family.

“I’m sorry for what I have put this family through,” Eells said. “I’m so sorry and I pray to God every day he gets you through the day. I hope her children grow up strong. I’m so sorry.”

Prior to sentencing, Frost said this and several of the vehicular homicide cases in front of him recently have been simply a matter of a misdemeanor traffic violations which had tragic consequences.

“It has become apparent to me you cannot get through this life without family, friends and faith,” Frost said, “and regardless of how the ACLU feels about it, the last one is perhaps the most important.”

Frost sentenced Eells to 90 days in jail, which she will be allowed to serve as electronically monitored house arrest. She will be granted work release privileges. Her license has been suspended for 18 months, but exceptions will be made for work, counseling and church. Additionally, Eells was fined $750 and required 150 hours of community service. She will be on probation for four years.

At the request of the Bibbee family, Eells will do her community service at the Columbiana American Legion.

Two civil cases have been filed in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court against Eells. One is by Jerry Bibbee and the other on behalf of the two children, Kylee and Christopher.