Emotions come out in court

LISBON – Clutching their daughter’s last school photo and a few things written by her before her death, the grieving parents of Olivia S. Thompson addressed Todd Roberts, the driver of the vehicle which struck her and then drove away.

“Mr. Roberts, you took so much from me,” said Billy Thompson, Olivia’s father, while standing next to his wife at the lectern in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court on Friday. “You took my heart. You took my soul. You took my light.”

Through tears he described his daughter as their “miracle” child, adding she was “unexpected and full of life.” She was 9 years old when she was struck by Roberts in a Chevy S-10 pickup while she was crossing East State Street in Salem while walking with a 12-year-old child near the Dollar General after 9 p.m., Nov. 9, 2012.

“You have two daughters,” Billy Thompson said to Roberts. “They deserve a father, but you don’t deserve them. Carelessly, you left my daughter in the street like a dog.”

Roberts’ children were reportedly riding in another vehicle behind his at the time of the accident and Billy Thompson questioned if they saw what happened and saw him drive away, asking what kind of role model he provided them. He expressed he will always have hate for Roberts and will always carry the loss of Olivia.

“You will do your four years and never have to think of my daughter again,” Billy Thompson concluded, “but you will always be in my thoughts. You will always be in my nightmares.”

Beth Thompson, Olivia’s mother, questioned Roberts about the lack of emotion he has shown throughout the court process.

“Was this worth it to be in such a hurry that night,” Beth Thompson asked. “You took a loving and vibrant child away from (her family).”

Billy Thompson read things his daughter had written, like in a Mother’s Day letter when she referred to her mother as Supermom and wrote the thing she liked the best about her mom is that she was funny. He added his wife would never again know what it was like to be called mother by her daughter.

One of Olivia Thompson’s aunts, Cyndi Dickey, spoke before the parents relaying she and another relative are nurses and were the ones who provided the aftercare to the body at the hospital the night Olivia was declared dead.

“The trauma caused to that child’s body was worse than anything I had ever seen in my professional career,” Dickey said, adding Roberts hit her and left her by the side of the road, something she said she could not even do to an animal.

Salem police testified at an earlier preliminary hearing Thompson’s body was found under a vehicle, 130 feet from where the impact was believed to have occurred.

Assistant County Prosecutor Tammie Riley Jones said Roberts was using excessive speed and had passed other vehicles in the area before striking Thompson. She added he then compounded the behavior by making the “completely selfish, self-interested decision to leave.”

Jones said Roberts continued down the road for awhile, then stopped to check the damage to his own vehicle, before continuing home to hide his vehicle. He then went drinking with friends at the Endzone Bar in Washingtonville. It was the next day “and at the urging of friends” when Roberts called Salem police to let them know he may have been responsible for what happened.

Roberts, 29, Thompson Road, Lisbon, had agreed in November to plead guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide and failure to stop after an accident.

Himself the father of two daughters ages 11 and 6, he apologized to Olivia’s family in court prior to sentencing. He also explained while he knows Olivia’s family would like to see him serve more time in prison, he has “to get home to his daughters.”

Roberts said he had prepared a speech, but added really he has felt lost and has not been able to figure out what to do since the accident and with the charges hanging over him.

“I’m sorry I left her on the side of the road,” he said. “I’m sorry everything happened and if I can change this I would do so in a heartbeat.”

Judge C. Ashley Pike went along with the terms of the plea agreement. Roberts was sentenced to a four-year prison term followed by a four-year probation term. Roberts’ license has been revoked for 10 years. Part of the plea agreement includes Roberts going to nine local schools or organizations during his probation and speaking about the dangers of driving recklessly or while impaired.