Tuesday, February 15, 2000

Man gets 8 years for fatal wreck




BY STEVE KEMME
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — After tearfully reading an apology in court, the man whose drunken-driving accident killed a Ross High School cheerleader and her grandfather was sentenced Monday to eight years in prison.

        Joseph Hoops also received a lifetime suspension of his driver's license and a $21,000 fine from Judge Patricia Oney in Butler County Common Pleas Court.

        The emotional sentencing hearing ended the legal ordeal for the victims' family and friends, but it didn't end their grief over the loss of 16-year-old Missy Boling and her 70-year-old grandfather, Robert Sandlin.

        “It's not over for us,” said Missy's father, Ray Boling, of Hanover Township. “We've been sentenced to a lifetime without Missy and her grandfather.”

        On Sept. 7, Mr. Hoops' van crossed the median on U.S. 27 in Ross Township and collided head-on with a car driven by Mr. Sandlin. Mr. Hoops' blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit and he was driving 75 mph, police said.

        He pleaded guilty Jan. 12 to two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, two counts of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of driving under the influence.

        He could have been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Judge Oney said she spared him the maximum sentence because he waived his right to a trial.

        In court, Mr. Hoops read a letter addressed to Missy's parents. He said he was deeply sorry for causing the deaths of Missy and Mr. Sandlin.

        “I hope you can forgive me because I can't forgive myself,” he said, without turning toward the spectators' seats. “It was an accident. I would never kill anyone. I am so sorry.”

        Mr. Hoops' attorney, Craig Hedric, said Mr. Hoops suffers from a manic-depressive disorder that caused him to abuse alcohol. He said that's not an excuse for his actions, but it points to his need for psychological treatment while in prison.

        Mr. Boling spoke in court about how much Missy and Mr. Sandlin, his father-in-law, meant to him and his family. He called Mr. Sandlin “the best man I ever knew” and Missy his best friend.

        “Missy was a wonderful young lady with many dreams and ambitions,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion. “I miss her hugs and kisses and the words, "I love you, Dad.'”

        Addressing Mr. Hoops without looking at him, Mr. Boling said, “You have destroyed my family's life with your irresponsibility.”

        Bill Sandlin, Robert Sandlin's brother, said their plans to enjoy their retirement years together have been shattered. He spoke of the horror of having to identify his brother and Missy in the morgue two days after the accident.

        “My brother's face was crushed in,” Bill Sandlin said in a shaking voice. “I wouldn't have recognized him if I didn't know it was him. That's not a way to see your brother for the last time.”

        Bill Webking, who coached Missy in cheerleading at the Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy in Fairfield, recalled how hard she worked to make the Ross High varsity cheerleading squad.

        Her caring, giving attitude toward others endeared her to everyone she knew, he said.

        Mr. Boling said he had difficulty accepting Mr. Hoops' characterization of the deaths of Missy and Mr. Sandlin as “accidental.”

        “Nobody forced him to drink and drive,” he said.

       



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