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Dennison gets three years in prison

LISBON — Dale E. Dennison, the driver responsible for the hit and run death of a man walking in the Franklin Square area in October of 2018, apologized to the family of Nicholas Paul Crookston prior to being sentenced to three years in prison in Common Pleas Court on Friday morning.

“I just want to say I’m sorry,” Dennison said. “If I would have known right away, I would have stopped. I honestly thought it was a deer. I’m very sorry.”

Dennison 30, West Salem Street, Columbiana, had pleaded guilty in February to vehicular homicide, failure to stop after an accident and tampering with evidence from the traffic crash on Oct. 2, 2018.

Judge Megan Bickerton said nothing done in her courtroom was going to bring back Crookston for the family members, who were in attendance while socially distancing and wearing masks.

Fighting back emotions, family members of Crookston spoke during the hearing. His wife, Bobbi Crookston. called Dennison’s actions careless and said Dennison did not care enough about another person to stop and questioned what if someone had done this to someone he loved. She talked about her husband’s laugh and smile, which is now just a memory.

“One day you will be a free man and you will be back home with your family and friends,” Crookston said, “and Nick will never get to do that again. He was taken away so young.”

Cindy Hill, Crookston’s mother, talked about how she raised her son from an 11-pound, 14-ounce baby, who grew up the brother of four siblings and became a father. She said her grandson misses his father every day. She talked about how he was always there for her, including when she had her health problems.

“You have stolen precious years away,” Hill said. “Losing my son, I am living hauntingly, it takes my breath away. I can’t put into words, may all of you never experience the pain I experience every day.”

She called Dennison a coward for hitting her son and leaving him there.

“That dreadful morning, I can’t fathom your state of mind, where your state of mind was, when you proceeded to try to erase everything.”

Chief Assistant County Prosecutor John Gamble pointed out we may never know what happened, because Dennison not only did not stop but he washed his vehicle and made repairs before anyone determined he had struck Crookston. Although Gamble did not ask for a specific sentence, he asked Bickerton to suspend Dennison’s license for the maximum of five years. Bickerton followed the request.

Bickerton noted there is no greater harm someone can cause than to take a life. She went through his criminal record, which began as a juvenile and has continued. Additionally, she said Dennison’s actions showed he was “more concerned about how this was going to affect (him), then how it had affected the life left on the side of the road.”

Crookston was walking west on Old Route 344 near state Route 558 in Salem Township at about 6 a.m., when he was struck and killed by a 2009 Jeep driven by Dennison. Instead of stopping, Dennison fled, leaving behind a piece of the Jeep.

The highway patrol investigated the crash scene. Someone later tipped Columbiana police that a damaged Jeep matching the one they were looking for was sitting in the parking lot at Columbiana Manor.

djohnson@mojonews.com

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