New Matamoras teen sentenced in fatal accident

MARIETTA – A New Matamoras teenager pleaded guilty and was sentenced Thursday in Marietta Municipal Court on charges of negligent vehicular homicide and assault, for his recklessness in an accident that killed a Newport Elementary School teacher and injured her now 3-year-old grandson a year ago.

It was raining heavily the afternoon of April 28, 2012 when 19-year-old Jacob Minder of 1285 Ohio 260 lost control of his vehicle, and slammed head-on into a vehicle traveling the opposite direction on Ohio 7, killing the driver.

Prosecutors have asserted that it was Minder’s unsafe rate of speed that was to blame for the death of 58-year-old Laura Hoff, a Newport Elementary School teacher just weeks away from retirement.

“Experts from the State Highway Patrol reconstructed the scene. They also retrieved the black box from the vehicle he was driving and it indicated he had been traveling 74 miles per hour,” said Marietta City Law Director Paul Bertram.

The posted speed limit where the accident happened is 55 mph. A month prior, Minder had received a speeding ticket for driving in the 80 mph range in the same area, said Bertram.

Minder, driving his grandmother’s Lincoln pickup truck, reportedly hydroplaned, spinning the tail of the truck into the front driver’s side of Hoff’s Suzuki SUV.

She was pronounced dead on the scene, said Bertram.

Hoff’s grandson, then 2 years old, was life flighted to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus and underwent surgery to remove some brain tissue that was protruding from a scalp laceration, said his mother, Brandi Hoff, who was present for the hearing. Brandi Hoff is married to Laura Hoff’s son.

The boy is still undergoing weekly physical therapy classes and is denied the option of playing with his preschool classmates, said Brandi.

“My son will never be whole again. Ten percent of his motor skills he will never be able to get back,” she said.

Minder was indicted in June on third-degree felony charges of aggravated vehicular homicide and reckless homicide and a fourth-degree felony charge of vehicular assault, related to the injuries of the child.

Though the law director’s case does not typically handle felony cases, the Washington County Prosecutor’s Office assigned Marietta Assistant Law Director Timsi Pathak as special prosecutor on the case because she assisted law enforcement at the crash site the afternoon of the crash.

Minder’s attorney Rolf Baumgartel entered guilty pleas on Minder’s behalf on first-degree misdemeanor counts of negligent vehicular homicide and assault. As part of the plea agreement, Minder received the maximum penalty – 180 days in the Washington County Jail, a $1,000 fine, and a five-year license suspension – on each charge.

The second 180 days will be suspended for probation and the five-year license suspensions will run concurrently, said acting Municipal Court Judge Nancy Brum.

Laura Hoff’s daughter, Mallory, was also present for the sentencing.

Minder hung his head as Brandi and Mallory tearfully read letters, admonishing Minder for his reckless behavior.

“What you took from us from your careless behavior can’t be described in a short letter. My mother was my rock, my everything,” said Mallory.

Minder did not make a statement in court.

Baumgartel spoke on his behalf, saying that Minder is a well-behaved young man who helps on his family farm and never caused a problem at Frontier High School, where he was a senior at the time of the accident.

“He wasn’t drinking. He wasn’t doing drugs. He doesn’t do those things. This is not a criminal. This is a young man that made a mistake that caused a tremendous amount of suffering to the victim’s family,” said Baumgartel.

Baumgartel mentioned the Minder asked to start serving his sentence as soon as possible.

He will begin the sentence May 10 and a restitution hearing for the toddler’s medical bills will be set for a later date, said Brum.