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Fatal crash grounds teen for life

By Deanna Hohler BottarRecord-Courier staff write Published: August 23, 1997 12:00 AM

The 19-year-old Stow man faces a lifetime driver's license suspension in addition to a one- to five-year prison sentence after he was convicted Friday of three felony charges in connection with a fatal April 7 car crash which claimed the life of an 18-year-old Stow High School classmate.

Sherman, 19, was behind the wheel of a car that Susan Polito, and seriously injured Andrew Ramos, also of Stow, during a crash on Judson Road in Franklin Township.

He was found guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide and involuntary manslaughter, both third-degree felony charges, plus aggravated vehicular assault, a fourth-degree felony charge, in connection with the crash.

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Charges of aggravated vehicular homicide and involuntary manslaughter carry the same one- to five-year prison sentences. Although Sherman was convicted of both, he can only be sentenced on one of them, according to Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci.

Sherman, who also faces up to 18 months in prison for the assault charge, will not be eligible for early release from prison because Judge John Enlow ruled Sherman was under the influence of alcohol when he committed the crimes.

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The alcohol specification also mandates Sherman serve his time in a state prison, not a local jail.

Polito, who was sitting in the back seat of Sherman's 1996 Ford Mustang, died as a result of injuries she sustained when the car went left of center and swerved off the road, striking a fence, a utility pole and a tree on Judson Road.

Ramos remains in a Pennsylvania hospital, where he cannot speak, walk or care for himself.

Enlow read the verdict Friday after Sherman's non-jury trial concluded Thursday in Portage County Common Pleas Court.

The judge said he weighed the evidence and considered Sherman guilty of all of the aspects of the charges, including causing death and physical injury, operating without reasonable control, speeding, driving left of center and driving while under the influence of alcohol.

The Ohio Highway Patrol estimated Sherman was driving at speeds up to 94 mph right before the crash.

His blood-alcohol content, checked two hours after the incident, tested at 0.044 percent. The legal limit in Ohio is 0.10 percent for adults and 0.02 percent for people younger than age 21.

Throughout the trial, Sherman's defense attorney, James Kersey, had argued the crash was caused by excessive speed, not alcohol consumption.

He said the 1996 Ford Mustang Sherman was driving is a "rocketship."

"There is a great temptation to drive it fast," Kersey said during

closing arguments Thursday.

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