Driver charged in death of Elder teacher pleads not guilty

Mark Klusman died Dec. 26 (Provided by Elder High School)
Mark Klusman died Dec. 26 (Provided by Elder High School)
Kayla Wilson in court last month. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker)
Kayla Wilson in court last month. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The lawyer of the woman charged in a hit-and-run accident that led to the death of a longtime West Side teacher pleaded not guilty in court Tuesday morning.

Kayla Wilson 23, was not in court herself to face Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Patrick Dinkelacker on upgraded and more severe charges including aggravated vehicular homicide.

Wilson's attorney entered her plea for her.

Judge Dinkelacker also upgraded Wilson's bond to $1.5 million at the Hamilton County jail.

Cincinnati police say Wilson smoked marijuana, got behind the wheel of a car and hit Elder High School teacher Mark Klusman on Warsaw Avenue Dec. 9.

At the time, Klusman, 74, was helping other volunteers clean up leaves and debris along the road.

Police say Wilson sped off and left Klusman suffering from critical injuries.

He was hospitalized in ICU but died Dec. 26.

His legacy will be honored in a 1 p.m. memorial mass at Elder High School, 3900 Vincent Ave., West Price Hill.

Cincinnati police caught up with Wilson a few days after the accident and arrested her.

She initially gave a false statement, they wrote in an affidavit, and then later confessed to:

  • smoking marijuana before the crash.
  • crashing her vehicle at the scene.
  • knowing she believed she was driving around 50 mph and that speed was too fast for the road.

"She also admitted to knowing she was under suspension at the time of the crash, but did not know she struck the victim," the affidavit states.

Wilson has pleaded not guilty.

Her lawyer, Clyde Bennett has said she has strong family ties to the area and little criminal record.

However, she has never held a license to legally drive a vehicle in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Public Safety.

She has now been caught operating a vehicle without a license or driving despite a suspension four times since she was 14: in 2009, 2015 and twice in the last week - the day of the crash and two days prior, state records show.

Wilson has been under two driving suspensions since 2015, court records show.

Two days before she allegedly hit Klusman and fled, she was convicted of driving under those suspensions after Cincinnati police ticketed her for the offense on Clinton Spring Avenue in North Avondale, records state.

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