Man pleads guilty in death of 9-year-old Salem girl

LISBON – The man accused of causing the death of a 9-year-old Salem girl by striking her with his pickup truck last year before driving away pleaded guilty in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court on Monday to aggravated vehicular homicide and failure to stop after an accident.

Todd R. Roberts, 28, Thomas Road, Lisbon, quietly pleaded guilty to the charges, which had been part of a negotiated plea agreement, which included input from the parents of the child, Olivia S. Thompson.

Both parents along with two other people supporting them were in the courtroom during Monday’s hearing. Some tears were shed during Roberts’ plea.

He had been scheduled for a jury trial next week.

Assistant County Prosecutor John Gamble said he plans to ask for a four-year prison term followed by a four-year probation term. He also will ask for Roberts’ license to be revoked for 10 years. Part of the plea agreement included Roberts agreeing during his probation to go to nine local schools or organizations and speak about the dangers of driving recklessly or while impaired.

Roberts’ defense attorney, James Hartford, said he does not believe the evidence would support Gamble’s allegations that Roberts was impaired that night.

During a preliminary hearing last November for Roberts in Columbiana County Municipal Court, Salem police Detective Dave Talbert had testified Roberts had admitted to him he did not stop because he had consumed some alcohol at BB Rooners with a friend prior to the crash on Nov. 9, 2012.

Talbert testified that a review of the establishment’s video showed Roberts drank one and a half beers before he left to drive back to Washingtonville, where he was living at that time. Roberts turned himself in the next day.

Thompson’s body was found about 130 feet from where police believe the impact occurred. She had been walking with a 12-year-old girl, who ran home and told a family member to call 911.

Roberts faced up to eight years in prison, a $20,000 fine and a lifetime license suspension if the maximum sentences are issued. Sentencing was set for Feb. 7.