Man has chance to stay clear of prison
LISBON — A Leetonia man convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide and failure to stop after an accident following the 2012 death of 9-year-old Olivia S. Thompson was given another chance to prove he can follow the terms of his probation.
The decision did not sit well with members of the child’s family who were in the Columbiana County Common Pleas Courtroom for Monday’s probation violation hearing.
Judge C. Ashley Pike said he wanted more time to make a final ruling on the punishment for Todd R. Roberts, 33, Coal Alley, Leetonia, who stipulated to violating at least one term of his probation. Roberts failed two drug tests and managed to obtain a driver’s license despite a ruling suspending his license for 10 years.
Roberts took the witness stand and answered the questions of his defense attorney, Frederick Naragon, and Chief Assistant County Prosecutor John Gamble.
Roberts said he had talked to his previous attorney about the possibility of obtaining driving privileges and back in February he called the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in Columbus to ask if he was eligible. Roberts said someone at the BMV told him his license was only suspended for three years and if he paid the $45 fee he could then obtain a new license.
Roberts said he even questioned them, asking if they were sure and informed his probation officer about it. In May, the probation office confiscated the license.
Pike indicated he believed Roberts story, saying “a mistake by the BMV is not unusual.”
However, Roberts also talked about his failed drug tests. When he failed for using opioids once, he said it was because he has a knee which hurts at work and a co-worker gave him a vicodin or oxycodone for the pain when over the counter drugs were not working one day. Additionally, he said one time he failed for marijuana because he was hanging out with old friends and they passed around a joint at a “diaper party.” The other time he claimed was because someone he got a ride from to work was smoking it in the vehicle without putting the windows down.
The probation officer for the case, Ryan McCallister, said following the two failed drug tests, Roberts has passed four others. Additionally, he has completed seven of the nine ordered speaking engagements where Roberts talks about the dangers of driving while impaired.
Roberts had admitted to drinking at a Salem bar before the crash. He reportedly has the other two speaking engagements scheduled this week.
Roberts said he is currently working, riding on the back of a garbage truck, but understands Thompson’s parents are suffering every day while he still gets to live his life.
Billy Thompson, the father of the child, spoke before Pike’s ruling, urging him to send Roberts back to prison. Roberts has served about three years and 9 months. Gamble had asked Pike to consider another three-year prison sentence.
“Every day we wake up missing our daughter,” Thompson said, noting they will never see her have a boyfriend, go to prom, graduate, attend college, walk her down the aisle or hold her first baby. Thompson added they will always wonder what Olivia’s life would have been like.
“We ask the court have Todd Roberts serve out the rest of his sentence,” Thompson said, adding later, “If I could I would say make him serve the rest of his life because that’s what her mother and I do. We live behind emotional bars … He killed my daughter and he left her alone to die.”
While Pike explained he has sympathy for Thompson and his wife and other family members in the courtroom, he added nothing he can do is going to take away their pain in losing their daughter. Pike said the purpose on Monday was not to determine if the original sentence was too short or not. The purpose now is to rehabilitate Roberts if possible instead of ruin another life.
Pike set a hearing for a final ruling on Dec. 3, reminding Roberts about the importance of following the terms of his probation.