Trial delay upsets victim’s family

LISBON – A jury trial set for Sept. 17 has been continued until December for the man charged with the death of a 9-year-old Salem girl last year.

Columbiana County Common Pleas Judge C. Ashley Pike approved the continuance upon the request of Todd Roberts’ attorney James Hartford on Friday.

Roberts, 28, of East Main Street in Washingtonville, was charged in November with aggravated vehicular homicide after leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in the death of Olivia Thompson of Franklin Avenue, Salem. The daughter of Billy and Beth Thompson was a fourth-grader at Reilly Elementary.

Roberts was allegedly driving a black pickup truck recklessly along East State Street in Salem when it struck Olivia Thompson near South Lundy Avenue and continued on. She was found by police unresponsive under an SUV nearly 130 feet from the original accident location and was taken to Akron Children’s Hospital. She died from her injuries the next day.

Roberts turned himself in to police that day as well, after learning he was wanted for the accident. He admitted to consuming alcohol the night of the crash, and also admitted to not stopping.

That the trial has been continued was upsetting to her family, who turned out for the status conference on Friday.

Beth Thompson sat through the brief conference with her mother and mother-in-law flanking her side and her niece behind them. The women were emotional, and Thompson and her niece shed tears as they listened.

Afterward, the women said they believed the continuance to be a “delaying tactic” on the part of Roberts and his attorney.

Beth Thompson said her husband was present at the courthouse but he did not sit in on the conference.

Hartford said he requested the continuance because he is securing expert testimony from Dr. David Uhrich, an accident reconstruction specialist and retired Kent State University professor.

He said Uhrich would likely not be available to testify until sometime after Oct. 1, as he has yet to visit the scene and will not have a written report completed until six weeks after that.

Rescheduling the trial took a few minutes as Pike and Assistant Prosecutor Tammy Riley Jones discussed their hesitation of holding a trial – which could take up to 10 days – near Christmas.

“It is unfortunate we are at this point,” Jones said. “The family would certainly like some closure.”

The court briefly considered scheduling the trial for early January, but it was then decided upon Dec. 3, with a status conference on Nov. 25.

Roberts’ bond was continued.

Beth Thompson said after the conference she and the family would like Roberts to receive the maximum possible sentence, but they aren’t sure that will happen.

“From a mother’s point of view you want to see him get as much time as he can. I have faith that the prosecutor’s office knows what they are doing. I appreciate the community support,” she said.