Tuesday, August 11th, 2009
Celina man sentenced for traffic death
By Margie Wuebker
Tears flowed in Celina Municipal Court last week as a 25-year-old area man learned his fate in connection with a Sept. 15 traffic accident that claimed the life of a newlywed.
Douglas M. Heitkamp, 6215 Depweg Road, Celina, who earlier pleaded no contest to one count of vehicular homicide, received a $500 fine and an 18-month operator's license suspension.
Judge James Scheer prefaced sentencing by stating he would not impose jail time, adding the accident involved no alcohol, drugs or aggressive driving. He stated the fine and suspension represented half the maximum allowed by law.
Heitkamp reportedly traveled left of center and struck a car driven by Todd L. Adams, 31, 2102 St. Anthony Road, Celina. The Adams car continued off the left side of the road and struck a utility pole before coming to a stop after the 4:41 p.m. accident.
Adams was taken by ambulance to Mercer County Community Hospital in Coldwater after being freed from the wreckage. He later went by CareFlight emergency helicopter to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, where he was pronounced dead at 6:30 p.m.
Scheer reflected on the words former Judge James Myers spoke more than 30 years ago at the sentencing of a Maria Stein man charged with the traffic deaths of eight Minster teenagers.
"You have made your own jail and you will be a prisoner of your conscience the rest of your life," Scheer said borrowing the words of his predecessor.
Adams' wife, Connie, tearfully spoke of the September tragedy, which occurred just 79 days after they exchanged wedding vows at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Montezuma.
The 30-year-old widow cried softly while relating how she and Todd's parents passed the accident scene while heading to the Coldwater hospital only to learn he was en route to Dayton. He never saw the wedding proofs - they arrived two weeks after the funeral.
"Every morning I awake thinking this has been a bad dream ... it's surreal," she said. "I don't take life for granted any more and I am picking up the pieces."
Defense attorney Jim Tesno said his client has no recollection of "the horrible, horrible accident." There also is no explanation as to what caused the pickup to cross the center line.
"At 25, he obviously will live with this the rest of his life," Tesno said. "Doug is not very good with words. He is afraid he might say something from the heart that might be taken wrong."
Heitkamp, who is engaged to marry, has agreed to pay money from his own pocket over and above insurance, according to Tesno.
The attorney admitted the proceedings have taken a long time and cautioned people in the courtroom not to view it as "Doug trying to shirk his duties." He explained the legal process can and does take time.
Scheer spoke to both families, praising their support over nearly 11 months. "You can forgive, but you can't forget," he said.
This marks the second vehicular homicide case Scheer has handled in municipal court this year. On Feb. 10, a charge of vehicular homicide filed against Alan Rinderle, 24, 222 Anthony Drive, St. Henry, was dismissed at the request of the victim's family and the state. Rinderle then entered a guilty plea to a lanes of travel violation but no sentence was imposed.
The crash, which occurred June 29, 2008, claimed the life of his girlfriend, 21-year-old Rachel Brackman of Fort Recovery.