Created on Wednesday, 05 September 2012 Written by Brooks Canavesi
Chad Pulfer claims he did not leave the scene of a crash last winter that killed an Amish school teacher because he was trying to conceal his involvement from law enforcement.
He believed at the time he had struck a deer.
Even so, Mr. Pulfer, 37, of 455 W. Lake St., Lakeview, was sentenced Tuesday by Logan County Common Pleas Court Judge Mark S. O’Connor to 89 days in the Logan County Jail, two years’ community control, a five-year driver’s license revocation and was ordered to pay a $500 fine and court costs for vehicular homicide, a first-degree misdemeanor.
The defendant was operating a westbound pickup truck about 6:10 p.m. Dec. 23 on County Road 101 near County Road 49 in McArthur Township when he struck the back of a bicycle pedaled by Martha Miller, 40, who reportedly was on her way back home after teaching school.
“Martha Miller was wearing a reflective vest and her bicycle was equipped with a flashing red light on the back,” Chief Assistant Prosecutor Eric Stewart said. “It’s clear there was negligence.
“He should’ve seen her.”
A March indictment handed up by a Logan County grand jury also charged the defendant with leaving the scene of a crash, a third-degree felony that carries with it a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Defense Attorney Scott Barrett emphasized that his client was unaware he’d hit another person, and pointed to Mr. Pulfer’s actions in the wake of the crash as proof.
“When (Mr. Pulfer) returned home he reported the accident to his insurance company; and he was told he didn’t need to contact law enforcement,” he said. “No effort was made to conceal the pickup truck or clean the grill.
“When he was contacted by (deputies from the Logan County Sheriff’s Office) a day after Christmas, I believe, both he and his wife were totally cooperative.”
On Dec. 26, deputies of the Logan County Sheriff’s Office seized Mr. Pulfer’s 1997 Chevrolet pickup truck and collected evidence from it.
That evidence, which was analyzed at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation crime lab, included Ms. Miller’s DNA and parts from her bicycle.
Mr. Barrett also alluded to a possible cause of the crash that night. He said his client suffers from, and takes medications for, multiple sleep disorders including narcolepsy and cataplexy that disrupts his sleep patterns and sometimes cause him to fall asleep during the day.
Defense counsel noted the health problems have also caused Mr. Pulfer to be fired from multiple jobs.
“Why’s he driving if he can fall asleep at a moment’s notice?” Mr. Stewart asked rhetorically. “If the law allowed for it, we would be asking for a lifetime driver’s license suspension.”
Miss Miller’s brothers submitted to the court a victim’s impact statement.
“The victims are part of a community more forgiving than the rest of us,” Judge O’Connor said before reading a portion of that statement aloud.
“ ‘She was a wonderful daughter and sister and we miss her every day. The Lord is our strength,’ ” the judge read, before adding, “It would be a miscarriage of justice not to enact a stringent penalty.”
Addressing the court, Mr. Pulfer sobbed as he apologized for his actions.
“I’m so sorry for what I did,” he said. “That’s not me.”
Judge O’Connor actually levied a six-month local jail term against the defendant, but suspended all but three months. Similarly, a $1,000 fine was ordered, with $500 suspended. He was granted one day jail credit.