By Shelley Grieshop
A St. Marys man has been charged in the deaths of two teenage girls who were killed in an alcohol-related traffic accident north of New Knoxville in June.
Jeremy Fark, 19, 122 Lynn St., was indicted in Auglaize County Common Pleas Court for one count of involuntary manslaughter, a third-degree felony, and one count of furnishing alcohol to someone underage, a first-degree misdemeanor.
Fark pleaded not guilty to both charges and was released on his own recognizance by Judge Frederick Pepple. He is represented in the case by Wapakonta attorney Kris Poppe. A pretrial hearing is set for Sept. 17. He faces a maximum of five years and six months incarceration if convicted on both counts.
Fark was not an occupant in the car that killed the driver, Rachael Harris, and the sole passenger, Heidi Thornberg, both 18. However, he was indicted because he is accused of supplying alcohol, directly or indirectly, to Harris prior to the accident June 2.
The manslaughter charge, as listed in the Ohio Revised Code, is appropriate when a death is caused as the result of someone committing or attempting to commit a misdemeanor (furnishing alcohol to a minor). The charges against Fark were jointly filed by the St. Marys Police Department, who investigated the source of the alcohol, and the Wapakoneta post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, who investigated the crash.
Officials from both law enforcement agencies told The Daily Standard they pursue, to the best of their ability, the source of alcohol in cases involving minors.
According to the report from the state patrol, Harris was driving a 1992 Mercury Topaz west on state Route 29, about 5:30 a.m., when the car's tire dropped off the roadway and into the gravel berm. She reportedly lost control of the vehicle, which slid off the right side of the road and struck a utility pole.
Both victims were found deceased inside the car, the report said. Troopers immediately suspected unsafe speed and alcohol were factors in the crash.
The double-fatality occurred just days after the young ladies received their high school diplomas -- Harris from St. Marys Memorial High School and Thornberg from Wapakoneta High School. Harris was a student in the Tri Star senior computer support program in Celina.
Lt. Dan Lay, commander of the Wapakoneta post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, said many times they run into a dead end trying to find out who provided alcohol to minors.
"We always ask, but they don't always tell," Lay said this morning. "Many times the cases stop with charges of underage consumption by the juveniles."
Lay said the seriousness of an injury accident, such as the double fatality, provides more incentive for the investigation, even though it is time consuming and often ends unrewarded. A lack of manpower sometimes is the deciding factor, he added.
St. Marys Police Chief Greg Foxhoven said his officers always attempt to chase down those that provide alcohol to minors -- no matter what.
"We would exhaust every lead ... our job deals more with criminal investigation, and we would pursue the source as far as we could," Foxhoven said.
Neither Foxhoven nor Lay would say exactly how their investigation led them to pinpoint Fark as an alleged contributor of alcohol to the young ladies. Both declined to elaborate as long as the case remains pending in court.
Foxhoven said he will always be driven to find answers when a case involves alcohol, minors and a loss of life.
"What else can you do? I want to be able to look at the surviving family members and say, 'We did everything we could,' " he said.