Thursday, April 8, 2004

Driver sentenced to 4 years for wreck that killed 4 friends

The Associated Press

NEWARK, Ohio - A Columbus man told a hushed courtroom the thought of having caused a car crash that killed four of his friends will be with him forever and he wishes he could trade places with them.

"It really hurt me to my heart to lose four great friends of mine," a sobbing Paul Adams Jr. said Tuesday. "I have to go on living with the fact that I was at fault."

Adams, 18, pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and was sentenced to four years in prison. Adams could have received a maximum of 20 years.

Assistant Licking County Prosecutor Ken Oswalt recommended the four-year sentence.

Oswalt said the plea agreement satisfied most family members. "They understood this was a foolish, childish act and that no one set out to harm anybody," the prosecutor said. Under terms of the sentence, Adams can apply for early release in six months.

The crash occurred on Interstate 70 in southern Licking County on Jan. 3 as Adams and the others returned to Columbus in two cars after an evening of square-dancing in Newark.

As Adams and Joel Heisley, 18, of Columbus, drove on the freeway, they began racing, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. There was no evidence of alcohol or drug use.

Adams lost control on the berm while passing a tractor-trailer, hit a guardrail and then collided with Heisley's car, which caromed into oncoming traffic. All four people in that car died. Adams and his three passengers escaped injury.

Killed in addition to Heisley was his sister, Alicia, 26, of Columbus; Nathan McIntosh, 19, of Columbus, and David George, 22, of Upper Sandusky.

Kent Heisley, who lost his oldest and youngest children in the crash, said he agreed with the sentence and felt sympathy for Adams, who once worked for him at a golf course.

"It was a stupid thing done by a young man, and he paid the ultimate cost," Heisley said.

"I hope that whatever time he does serve doesn't harden him for the rest of his life."

Joel Heisley's brother wasn't as forgiving.

"I think he ought to get 20 years," said Keith Heisley, who did not attend the hearing. "He took four people's lives, and he ruined the lives of those people's families. As far as I am concerned, that's just as bad as walking down the street and firing a gun indiscriminately."

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