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Rachel and Jenny Schidecker sued for wrongful death

Crash scene photograph.  Rachel Schidecker, 18 at the time of the accident, is accused of driving drunk in the wrong-way, head-on crash that killed Chereece Rule.
Crash scene photograph. Rachel Schidecker, 18 at the time of the accident, is accused of driving drunk in the wrong-way, head-on crash that killed Chereece Rule.
Ohio State Highway Patrol photo

The driver of a vehicle that collided head-on with another vehicle, causing the death of Chereece Rule and seriously injuring David Wilson has been named a defendant in a wrongful death case filed in the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court on April 5, 2014. The accident occurred on August 11, 2012 in Harrison Township, just north of downtown Dayton.

Rachel Schidecker, who was 18 years old at the time of the accident was driving north in the southbound lanes of I-75. The impact of the crash caused the vehicle that was being driven by David Wilson to become wedged under the trailer of a semi-truck, where it caught fire. Wilson was partially ejected in the crash and was pulled from the wreckage by Good Samaritans who stopped to help. Chereece Rule was a passenger in the vehicle driven by Wilson and was trapped inside the vehicle. Witnesses reported hearing Rule scream for help until the fire completely consumed the vehicle. Five vehicles in all were involved in the crash, and five people were transported to hospitals, including Schidecker.

Schidecker had a small laceration on her face and kept asking the EMS personnel if she was still pretty. Schidecker's attorney, Dennis Leiberman has denied that she asked that question. Schidecker admitted to troopers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol and EMS personnel that she had been drinking. Blood was drawn at Miami Valley Hospital and her blood alcohol level was analyzed by the highway patrol crime lab and was determined to be 0.236%. Normally the legal limit in Ohio is 0.08%, but because Schidecker was under the age of 21, the legal limit is 0.02%.

After a very lengthy investigation, including waiting on results of DNA testing, Schidecker was indicted by the Montgomery County Grand Jury on several charges, including Aggravated Vehicular Homicide, which is a felony of the 2nd degree. The criminal case is scheduled to go to trial in June of this year.

The lawsuit is brought on the behalf of Jacqueline Johnson, the executrix of Chereece Rule's estate and lists David Wilson as a second plaintiff. The lawsuit also seeks damages for Chereece's children. It was filed by Attorney Matthew J. Blair in Niles, Ohio. Other than numerous spelling and typographical errors, the lawsuit seems pretty standard. Rachel Schidecker's mother, Jenny Schidecker was named as a defendant in the lawsuit because the vehicle that Rachel was driving was owned by Jenny.

The criminal case has proceeded slowly. When she was arrested, she almost immediately posted bond and was released to electronic home detention. Her attorney has requested several modifications to the conditions of the house arrest, including one request that Rachel be allowed to go outside of her house to enjoy sunshine in an attempt to improve her mental health and lessen her depression. Other requests to modify the house arrest were standard requests, including permission to attend doctors appointments, therapists, church and a 12-step alcoholics anonymous program. The judge has approved each request to modify the conditions of house arrest.

Since Schidecker has been on house arrest for over a year, the question was asked whether her eventual prison sentence would be reduced based on the time she spent on home detention. Typically when a defendant is sentenced, they will get jail time credit for any time they spent incarcerated waiting for the case to go to trial. The Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office confirmed that the time she spent on house arrest will not count towards her prison sentence. In 2004, the Ohio Supreme Court decided in State v. Gapen, a notorious triple murder in Dayton, Ohio that house arrest was a "constraint" of a defendant's liberty, but not a "detention." Ohio statutes clearly state that for jail time credit to be awarded, the defendant must be held in a state of detention. Schidecker might get credit for two days of jail credit up to this point.

Schidecker filed a "Motion to Suppress," which asked the judge to throw out some of the evidence in the case. She asked that the blood analysis be excluded because the blood was not refrigerated while it was being shipped to the highway patrol crime lab in Columbus. The normal procedure of the highway patrol is to mail blood samples to the lab. Courts in Ohio have ruled that blood samples do not have to be refrigerated during the shipping process. She also complained that the her consent to draw blood was not voluntarily given because she was strapped to a backboard and was not free to leave. The judge rejected her arguments and the case is now scheduled for trial.

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