A 2006 Killer Set to be Released

I ran across this story in my daily search for bicycle/crash stories from around the country and the world. A 5 year sentence for a driver who slammed into a cyclist with here Mercedes while driving at “three times over the drink-driving limit and 10 times over the limit for cocaine” – The woman smashed into, and killed, the cyclist and kept right on motoring along with her windshield in bits and her bumper left at the scene.

The cyclist, a 61 year old fellow, was riding his e-bike to “… start a night shift at work when Moughan hit him… Wearing hi-visibility clothing and with front and rear lights visible on his bike, it is estimated that he would have been visible to the motorist for 600 metres, or 20 seconds…

The motorist was non-repentant…

“…Six weeks later, she was discovered passed out on the back seat of a Fiat Punto which had been damaged in a crash with another vehicle, and was found to be over the drink-drive limit on that occasion as well…”

She was charged, convicted and sentenced… the Judge gave her… ta da… Five Years and Two months in prison.

Seems a bit… I dunno… low… for such a crime?

I am reminded by these daily stories about other cases – some I have worked on… some I participated in as an advocate… some I just read about …

I did a post way back in 2010 talking about sentencing in vehicular homicide cases and about how an E/R doc got 5 years in prison for a road rage incident in which two cyclists were seriously injured. In 2016 I posted again on this topic, comparing some sentences issued in a variety of serious cases.

Today I’m looking backwards – and forwards. Back to 2006 – July 16, 2006 to be specific. And back to this man – Anthony Gerike – who’s been in prison since 2007 for causing the crash of July 16, 2006 that violently, horrifically took the lives of two local cyclists- Amy Gehring and Terry Walker – who were part of a Cincinnati Cycle Club Sunday morning ride…

Looking back at the horrific crime … and looking forward a few months to his anticipated release date…

July 16, 2006, was a Sunday – a very pretty Sunday in fact. About ten riders from the Cincinnati Cycle Club got together for a very mild, leisurely bike ride in western Hamilton County. In the group were Terry Walker, a passionate rider whose license plate read “4CYCLING,” and his fiancé along with Amy Gehring and her daughter. Amy and her husband Bob, a prominent local attorney, were training for an upcoming anniversary bike trip to Tuscany.

The night prior, the evening of Saturday, July 15, 2006, Anthony Gerike was not cycling- he was partying. He later told police that he drank until 4am that morning. We heard rumors about why he was driving early that Sunday morning but nothing was confirmed in court… nonetheless, as the 10 cyclists were riding westbound on New Haven Road Gerike was motoring eastbound in his Geo Tracker. Gerike was 25 years old at the time, an Army veteran who had a good job as an iron worker.

Gerike, however, was driving illegally. He was drunk as he motored along towards the moment in time that would impact so many … legally drunk as he drove as he tested at 0.8% BAC. Gerike also tested positive to cocaine and pot. There’s no “legal limit” for cocaine in Ohio, as there apparently is in the story referenced above, so he was in violation of state law driving with cocaine [and pot] in his system. Finally, Gerike was also driving without a license, having lost it for a failure to maintain insurance. Otherwise, his prior record was clean even if his blood wasn’t.

The scene of the crash was… nightmarish… As Gerike approached the cyclists on the two-lane road he initially went left of center. An oncoming motorist who had passed the cyclists was forced to go left of center herself to avoid being struck head on by Gerike’s car that was coming at her in her lane! She passed Gerike on his passenger side. Gerike kept going, seemingly oblivious.

Gerike continued to drive the Geo in the wrong lane and drove directly into the group of oncoming cyclists. Amy Gehring was struck head on and impaled on the windshield. Her daughter missed being slammed into “…by centimeters…” Terry Walker was struck and also ended up on the hood until he was thrown many feet into the air. “Body and bike parts were scattered about the scene” according to the State’s appellate brief. Amy Gehring & Terry Walker were killed instantly upon impact.

The evidence against Gerike was overwhelming. If you are squeamish, please skip this paragraph. I add these details so that the horrific nature of Gerike’s crime is not forgotten…

The State presented 19 witnesses at trial including five from the ride and six who were in cars driving nearby. One witness testified that a few minutes prior to the crash Gerike was urinating in his front yard after he had crashed into his lamp post. Gerike drove off when he witness threatened to call police. Another witness was driving towards Gerike after passing the cyclists. She saw him weaving back and forth and had to take evasive action to avoid being hit. Amy’s daughter remembered moving her bike over to the edge, next to a guardrail… another cyclist saw bike parts, and body parts, flying upon impact. This cyclist took Amy’s daughter under her wing so she could avoid seeing her mom impaled on car’s windshield.

After blasting through the cyclists Gerike didn’t stop the car… with two people on his hood he continued to drive down New Haven Road. He hit a manhole cover in the road which propelled Terry Walker off the hood and into the air. Gerike finally slammed into another oncoming car. Gerike then got out of the car and sat under a tree. He was treated for relatively minor injuries.

He showed no remorse. No emotion about what he had done. He told hospital personnel that he had no memory of the crash – that he “must have fallen asleep.” He had a two blood draws within the statutorily required two hour post-crash window.

Gerike’s trial attorney fought to keep his statements – and the results of his blood tests – out of evidence but the court allowed this data to come into evidence as Gerike was determined to have been read his rights and voluntarily gave the blood sample. At one point when police were questioning him he asked for an attorney and questioning stopped.

The trial went forward and a jury found Gerike guilty on six counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, while acquitting him of two counts of leaving the scene. I guess he TRIED to leave the scene but smashed into a car and was stuck there. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

But that’s not the point today.

Today, Mr. Gerike is preparing to reenter the world outside of prison.

He entered prison as a 25 year old in the MySpace era and will be released as a 41 year old on post release control [parole] for five years.

I don’t know anything about him at this point. I would like to see if prison “worked” – was it effective? Is he interested in helping prevent others from traveling down the same road? Does he just want to get on living his life & forget about all of that? Can he? Did prison forever change him for good…or bad… Did it ruin him? Help him?

I don’t do “criminal” law – the folks I deal with are the victims- usually maimed by some idiotic driving… cases like this though are different. It’s one thing to do dumb, careless… and there’s being so out of it that you’re driving the wrong way into an oncoming group of ten people… I don’t know how that impacts the driver… how the justice system impacts the driver… how prison impacts the driver…

I DO know that Amy & Terry are still dead… that their friends and families still suffer… that some would say to Mr. Gerike, “Your time in prison was a down payment for the lifelong hell you brought to these families… their friends… the entire cycling community…” Others would say, “You’ve paid your court ordered debt… you are on parole for five years but after that you’re a totally free man…”

Is 16 years in prison plus 5 on parole enough? Too much? Just right?

I don’t know…

I remember this case vividly… I was at the Ghost Bike ceremony. I tracked the case & talked with one of the prosecutors, Jody Leubbers, who later became Judge Luebbers. I was in the courtroom at the sentencing. I knew Bob Gehring. I watched what it did to the community. SO I may not be the best one to talk about carceral policy in this case…

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