MOUNT VERNON — Megan Peterson didn’t receive the maximum sentence but will spend the next 90 days in jail as the result of the sentence imposed by Municipal Court Judge Paul Spurgeon on Monday. Spurgeon sentenced Peterson, 19, to 180 days, with 90 days suspended, on the misdemeanor charge of vehicular homicide and 180 days, 90 days suspended, on the charge of vehicular assault, also a misdemeanor. The charges are to be served concurrently.
In addition to 90 days in jail, Peterson’s driver’s license will be suspended for five years and she will be on probation for five years. She was also fined $500 and costs.
The charges were the result of a traffic accident Aug. 4, 2010, that claimed the life of Keith M. Homstad Jr., 23, of Johnstown and seriously injured Ryan M. Thogmartin of Zanesville, the driver of the other vehicle.
Prior to sentencing, Gayemarie Homstad Long and Keith Homstad Sr., Keith Jr.’s parents, addressed the court. Both addressed the subject of Peterson’s claims of remorse were hollow, that her claims of remorse were more about the consequences she is facing than about any feelings she had for his son. He questioned her claim of a close relationship with his son, claiming he had only heard of her three days before the crash, that there were no records of text messages or Facebook entries to bolster her claims, and that only a few months after the crash she was posting a picture of another boy on her Facebook page, claiming he was her true love.
On the other side, in court, defense attorney Brandon Crunkilton told the court that Peterson’s lack of contact with the family was at his direction; that she should not discuss the case with anyone while felony charges were pending. Those charges were eventually reduced to misdemeanors. She had, he said, “expressed extreme remorse on many occasions to me.”
After the court session, Kim Peterson, Megan’s mother, said “it has been a long ordeal for all of us” and painted a different picture, of two children who had known each other since about seventh grade and who had been trading calls and text messages since about 2008.
She also said she and Megan had attended Keith’s funeral, until they were asked to leave, and that Megan had never denied responsibility for what happened.
Megan Peterson declined to make any statement on her own behalf, clearly unable to control her emotions at the moment.
Before issuing his sentence, Judge Spurgeon said that in such cases he wanted to issue a judgment that was “severe but not vindictive” and that would send a message. He looked at Peterson and said, “clearly you have not learned to drive defensively; to look down the road and anticipate what might happen.”
He also noted “you drive too fast” and added that she needed to accept responsibility and deal with the consequences. “You’ll have many days to think about it,” he said.
Homstad’s parents declined to make any statement following the sentencing. However, Assistant Law Director Rob Broeren Jr. said that after speaking with the parents they felt the strongest about Peterson receiving the maximum five-year license suspension.
The case originally included a finding by the Ohio Highway Patrol that Peterson may have been texting while driving, but when the defense attorney pointed out a gap existed in the phone records just before the accident, the felony charges originally returned by the grand jury were reduced to misdemeanor charges.