Driver avoids jail time after Hamilton crash that killed boy, 6
The boy’s mother says the plea deal is ‘not ok’ and that ‘something needs to be done.’
HAMILTON, Ohio (WXIX) - A Hamilton woman will avoid jail time after a May crash that killed a 6-year-old boy.
Elizabeth Mehl, 30, was originally charged with driving under the influence, child endangerment and drug possession. In June, a Butler County judge dismissed the OVI and child endangerment charges.
Mehl accepted a plea deal Tuesday in which she pleaded down to a misdemeanor count of attempted aggravated drug possession.
Sentencing guidelines for that misdemeanor allow up to 180 days jail time, a $1,000 fine and a five-year driver’s license suspension.
Mehl was sentenced to four years of community control. Her probation requirements include a one-year driver’s license suspension, corrective thinking classes, mental health assessments and drug and alcohol assessments. She will pay a $100 fine.
Mina Watson is the mother of the victims, 6-year-old Nolen Scott Jones and 11-year-old Logan Watson.
“It’s not fair,” Watson said. “Something should be done. Why should she be able to get off like this and everything be ok? I’m not ok. They didn’t have to bury their kid. I had to. Christmas without him... Everything is different.”
Nolen was a kindergartner at Linden Elementary. He and Watson were brothers.
“She still gets to be around her kids,” said Brian Jones, Nolen’s father. “The only way I get to be with my kid is to go to the gravesite.”
The crash happened around 7 p.m. on May 11 on Pleasant Avenue near Symmes Avenue in the Lindenwald neighborhood.
Nolen and Watson were crossing Pleasant outside a crosswalk when Mehl hit them, according to the crash report. Nolen died before the ambulance transporting him reached the hospital. Watson was also injured.
Mehl had two children in the car with her during the time of the crash, according to a police affidavit.
Officers removed the children from her car. In the process of doing so, they saw a small baggie containing multiple pills stuffed in the crack of the passenger seat where one of the children had been sitting, the affidavit says.
Mehl told officers at the police department that the pills were Percocet. It remains unknown whether she had a prescription for the drugs and whether she had the drugs in her system during the crash.
Police said they noticed at the scene Mehl had bloodshot eyes and “raspy speech.”
At some point following the crash, 26-year-old Gortencia Renessa Garcia pulled over. Garcia told police she did so after realizing she knew the driver, Mehl.
Garcia said Mehl told her to grab money out of the car. Officers said they did find money within a coin purse inside Garcia’s bra when they searched her.
Garcia was arrested for tampering with evidence. In the arrest report, police say they found in the coin purse a folded dollar bill with white powder residue as well as two small baggies with white powder residue and two straws with white powder residue.
A grand jury declined to indict Garcia.
Nolen’s father is angry and heartbroken about the plea deal.
“There’s no justice for [Nolen,]” Brian said. “It’s a struggle, and it’s a failure of the justice system from our standpoint. We feel a lot more could have been done, should have been done.”
Mehl’s defense attorney, Jonathan Fox, responds the Hamilton police investigation was extensive but “probably jumped the gun” in terms of forming conclusions on the evidence.
Police later downloaded data from Mehl’s car which Fox says showed she was going 31 mph in a 25 mph zone. He also says surveillance video and eyewitness testimony show Mehl was not driving recklessly and that the children darted out directly in front of Mehl’s car.
Mehl had a Percocet prescription previously but did not at the time of the crash. She admitted to taking a Percocet earlier that day, but Fox says a urine sample found only trace amounts of the drug in her system, not enough to be a statutory violation or constitute reckless driving.
The cash found in Mehl’s car, according to Fox, was Mehl’s stimulus money and was returned to her.
“It’s a busy area, and there were two young, unsupervised boys that decided unfortunately to cross the street,” Fox said.
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