Ky. prosecutor says police chase suspect should have never been out on the streets

Mark Gerth (Source: Hamilton County Sheriff's Office)
Mark Gerth (Source: Hamilton County Sheriff's Office)

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

INDEPENDENCE, KY (FOX19)  - Kenton County Prosecutor Rob Sanders says Wednesday's deadly incident could have been prevented.

Sanders told FOX19 Mark Gerth, 39, has had several run-ins with the law in Kentucky. Sanders  added that if parole eligibility laws on that side of the river were different, Gerth would have still been behind bars on Wednesday, and perhaps, the two victims would still be alive.

"This isn't the first time we see it," said Sanders. "Unfortunately, unless they make drastic changes to the parole eligibility laws in Kentucky, it's not going to be the last one."

Gerth is accused of driving a stolen sport utility vehicle on Wednesday. Police said he lead officers on a chase and eventually crashed into a taxi. Driver Mohamed Ould Mohamed Sidi, 34, of Cincinnati and Tonya Hairston, 39, of New York were killed in the crash.

Gerth was arraigned Thursday on two charges of aggravated vehicular homicide, in addition to other charges.

Sanders said Gerth first landed behind bars in Northern Kentucky in 2002. Sanders said Gerth was involved in a police chase in Kenton County back in 2001 and was caught with cocaine, but both of those charges were dropped. Months later, Gerth was charged with burglary and theft. He was sentenced to ten years behind bars for those crimes.

Sanders said Gerth was allowed back out on the streets a few years later. In 2008, Sanders said Gerth was again charged with theft. Gerth was sentenced to four years, but was again released early.

"That would have run him well past 2011," Sanders said. "In fact, that would have been, I guess if he would have served it all, that would have put him in {jail until} 2013."

The problem is Gerth's previous crimes in Northern Kentucky were considered non-violent.

"{Those crimes} include drug dealers," said Sanders. "It includes burglars, even residential burglars. It includes arsonists. It can even include manslaughter second degree, reckless homicide."

On top of that, the Kentucky Legislature states non-violent criminals are eligible for parole once they serve 20-percent of their time. That means a felon with a ten year sentence can be out in two years. A person with a 20 year sentence, could be out in four years.

Sanders hopes that won't be the case in this current crime, considering Gerth has now been charged in Ohio.

"I think he's going to have a rude awakening," Sanders said. "Under Ohio law, he'll end up serving 85-percent or more of whatever sentence he gets so if it's anything even close to what it should be for killing two people, he'll be in an Ohio prison for a lot lot longer than he was in a Kentucky prison."

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