A Tallmadge resident has pleaded no contest to charges related to a fatal collision in the early hours of Easter Sunday 2016 that took a 17-year-old girl's life. Charles R. Queer, 64, is scheduled to be sentenced on July 26. He faces a maximum sentence of eight years in prison, according to James Pollack, director of communications for the Summit County Prosecutor's office.
"It's a no win situation for anybody -- it's a terrible tragedy -- two families have been affected terribly by this," Queer's attorney, Michael T. Callahan, told the Tallmadge Express by telephone June 7. The crash took Akron resident Patricia "Tricia" N. Powell's life.
Pollack said a no contest plea "means that the defendant is conceding the charge without admitting guilt and without presenting a defense."
In proceedings June 6 in Akron, Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Joy Malek Oldfield subsequently found Queer guilty of the following charges: aggravated vehicular homicide, a second-degree felony; vehicular homicide, a third-degree felony; and operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, a first-degree misdemeanor.
Lt. Rick Edwards of the Akron Police Department reported that Powell was doing some last-minute shopping for Easter on March 27, 2016 when her car overheated and she pulled onto the right shoulder of eastbound Interstate 76 at 2:15 a.m. She called a friend to pick her up, Edwards said. Her flashers were on and she was inside the car when the Tallmadge man, driving a 2015 Chevy Equinox, hit the back of her car, a 2002 Olds Alero.
"Queer had a blood plasma of .204, over two times the legal limit," according to an April 13, 2016 press release issued by the Akron Police Department.
Powell was transported to Summa Akron City Hospital, where she died from blunt force trauma to the head and neck, Edwards said. Queer was hospitalized for non-life-threatening injuries.
Officers at the scene of the accident said the man admitted to having a few drinks and they "detected an odor of alcohol when he spoke and his eyes were red and glassy," Edwards reported.
"Seventeen-year-old Patricia Powell had her whole life in front of her and should have graduated with her Ellet High School classmates this week," Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh stated in an email to the Tallmadge Express June 7. "Instead, her family mourns the loss of someone whose bright future was ended by a drunk driver. They will have to deal with this pain for the rest of their lives. This case is another horrible reminder about the dangers of drinking and driving."
Powell's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Queer and the bar and its employees that served him alcohol prior to the fatal crash. In a civil lawsuit filed June 8, 2016 in Summit County Common Pleas Court, the family alleges servers at KC's Nashville Nights in Akron "had a legal duty not to sell alcoholic beverages to a noticeably intoxicated" Queer.
"As a direct and proximate result of his / intoxication," the lawsuit alleges Queer caused Powell's death in a crash after leaving the bar. The civil lawsuit names KCKC Real Estate Holdings -- the owner of KC's Nashville Nights -- as well as three of its bartenders or servers and Queer as defendants and seeks more than $25,000 in damages.
Callahan said Queer's no contest plea was made to benefit the victim's family in the civil suit. Callahan said he spoke with the lawyers handling the civil suit, including those representing Powell's family, and it was their preference for Queer to enter a no contest plea, if the court would accept it.