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Man pleads in Palestine traffic death

LISBON — A 90-year-old New Waterford man who was behind the wheel of a vehicle that struck and eventually killed a man making deliveries for Fed-Ex pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter in county Municipal Court on Monday.

Richard I. Kiehl, Hatcher Road, who turned 90 earlier this month, had been driving in East Palestine on Aug. 13 when he stopped behind a box truck where Brian N. Clark was working and delivering packages.

According to East Palestine Sgt. Brian Moore, Kiehl stopped behind the truck for 44 seconds, then accelerated forward suddenly in his Ford F-150, pinning Clark between the pickup and the box truck. Clark died on Aug. 26 of extensive pelvic and leg injuries from the accident.

Assistant county prosecutor Danielle Menning and defense attorney Shelli Freeze both detailed the plea agreement asking for 90 days of suspended jail time, a $750 fine and a five-year license suspension. Additionally, they requested Judge Katelyn Dickey to consider requiring a mental health evaluation for Kiehl and insist he pass a driving test should he ever try to get his license reinstated.

While Menning suggested 50 hours community service, Freeze pointed out Kiehl has trouble with his mobility and may not be able to complete the community service. Kiehl had entered the courtroom using a cane to walk and had his daughter assist him leaving the courtroom.

Dickey agreed to allow him to buy out the community service at a rate of $10 per hour if he cannot do the work. Additionally, Dickey fined him $750 and sentenced him to a 90-day jail sentence, which is the maximum time allowed for a second-degree misdemeanor. However, the jail sentence was suspended.

Freeze said Kiehl was very remorseful for what happened and wishes he could turn back time. However, she noted since his wife died three years ago, Kiehl has been seeing his physician monthly and it was never suggested by the doctor that he should stop driving. Freeze also said Kiehl had been an over the road truck driver for 48 years of his life and had never had an accident until now.

Although no civil lawsuit has been filed at this time, an attorney for Clark’s widow, Kathy Clark, spoke on behalf of the family. The attorney stated Clark, her children and his siblings have suffered a life sentence for what happened. She noted Clark, an Austintown resident who died at age 39, had suffered for 14 days with his injuries before dying and what has happened completely decimated his family.

Dickey expressed her condolences to Clark, who was standing next to her attorney.

djohnson@mojonews.com

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