A southwest Ohio truck driver has been charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in the death of Republican Party leader W. Roak Zeller of Kent in a traffic crash on Interstate 76 in Summit County on Sept. 6.
Daniel C. Ballard, 48, of Cleves in Hamilton County, is charged with one count each of vehicular manslaughter, a second-degree misdemeanor, and failure to maintain assured clear distance ahead -- or following too closely -- which is a minor misdemeanor, according to Stow Municipal Court records.
Ballard recently pleaded not guilty to the charges and is free on bond pending a pretrial hearing in Judge Lisa Coates' courtroom on Nov. 5, according to court records.
Tallmadge police filed the charges after Ballard's semi-truck allegedly struck Zeller's vehicle from behind in traffic while headed westbound on I-76 shortly before 8 a.m. Zeller had slowed down in traffic caused by a different crash in the Akron area. Zeller's vehicle then struck a third vehicle.
Zeller, 42, of Kent, was ejected from his vehicle and died at the scene, according to Tallmadge police. Ballard was treated for minor injuries. The third driver was not injured.
A graduate of Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent and Kent State University, Zeller was a well-known Republican activist who had run for county commissioner and state representative.
He worked at Newell Rubbermaid in Mogadore.
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W. Roak Zeller victim in fatal accident on I-76: