Man who killed off-duty officer in head-on crash sentenced to 13 years

Man who killed off-duty officer in head-on crash sentenced to 13 years
Justin Watts received the maximum sentence Monday of a total of 13 years for the death of Officer Jared Lee. (Source: Daoud, Natalya)

BATAVIA, Ohio (FOX19) - The driver who pleaded guilty in a head-on crash that killed an off-duty Clearcreek Township police officer was sentenced Monday morning.

Justin Watts, 31, received the maximum sentence of 13 years: 11 years of for aggravated vehicular homicide and 2 years for community control probation violation.

Watts pleaded guilty last month to aggravated vehicular assault in the January crash that killed Officr Jerrid Lee, 27, in Batavia Township.

Lee was on his way to work out at a gym when an eastbound 2006 GMC Envoy driven by Watts crossed the center lane on Ohio 125 near Lindale-Mount Holly Road and struck his westbound 1997 Honda Civic head-on, troopers said.

“I’m really happy with the sentence, obviously if he could’ve gotten more, I would have preferred for him to have more,” said Jerrid’s wife Katie. "Nothing is going to bring Jerrid back, but I’m really thankful that he got as much as he possibly could have for justice for Jerrid, for justice for my family, and for safety for everybody.”

Jerrid Lee with his wife and daughter. Photo: Go Fund Me
Jerrid Lee with his wife and daughter. Photo: Go Fund Me

During his court hearing Monday, Watts said he was sorry and took full responsibility for his actions.

"I understand that I can’t say anything to make this situation any better than what it is that I’m remorseful for what happened. I’ve took responsibly from the jump. I’ve never lied to him [his lawyer] or anyone. It’s my fault. I made a stupid decision, your honor, and I apologize to you guys [the family], really. I’m sorry that I hurt so many people because of my careless actions,” said Watts.

Katie Lee said she and her husband were playing with their kids right before Jerrid went to the gym that night.

Right as he was walking out the door, he told his son that they would play as soon as he got home.

Katie did not hear from Jerrid and got worried, so she tracked his iPhone and saw that he never made it to the gym, she says. Shortly after, Ohio State Troopers were knocking at her door and told her the news.

“The next day I had to look my 4-year-old in the eye and tell her that her daddy would never be coming home,” said Katie. "She was under our dining room table sobbing and asking, ‘Is it because we didn’t love him enough? Why couldn’t the doctors fix him? Can we still try to fix him? Maybe we can just make a robot that will bring him back?’”

Katie told the judge that a maximum sentence should be enforced so Watts can think about the man he took from them.

Jerrid’s mother spoke to the judge about her son and what she thinks of Watts.

“I hold no hope that Mr. Watts regrets his actions, nor that he will ever change his criminal record. That speaks for itself and tells me all I need to know about him,” said Jerrid’s mother, Jody Walker. “Maybe however, it is acceptable for me to say I expect this court to finally be the court that demands Mr. Watts be held fully accountable for his actions.”

“Jerrid was absolutely amazing man, husband, father, son, uncle, brother, police officer, war veteran and friend. He can never be replaced all because of a very selfish decision of someone that has never positively contributed to society,” said Katie.

Three additional charges against Watts have been dismissed: a second count of aggravated vehicular homicide and two counts of misdemeanor operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

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