By Shelley Grieshop
WAPAKONETA -- A 19-year-old St. Marys man pleaded no contest Wednesday to complicity to commit vehicular homicide stemming from the alcohol-related traffic death of two St. Marys girls in June.
Jeremy Fark, 122 Lynn St., flanked by his attorney, Kris Poppe, offered the plea during a hearing in Auglaize County Common Pleas Court. Fark remains free on bond pending sentencing, which is yet to be set.
Fark was accused of supplying alcohol and his vehicle to Rachael Harris who was killed, along with her passenger, Heidi Thornberg, in a traffic crash north of New Knoxville in the early morning hours of June 2.
Fark was indicted by a grand jury in August and charged with involuntary manslaughter, a third-degree felony, and furnishing alcohol to someone underage, a misdemeanor. After a series of pretrial hearings, Auglaize County Prosecutor Ed Pierce and Poppe agreed to dismiss the grand jury indictment and present Fark with the new Bill of Information charge.
A Bill of Information allows the defendant to plea to the charge while waiving his right to have his case heard by a grand jury. In a quiet, subdued voice, Fark asked Judge Frederick Pepple to accept his plea of no contest to the lesser charge that carries a maximum six months in jail, a $1,000 fine and five-year driver's license suspension.
The original indictment carried a maximum five years and six months incarceration.
Pierce told Pepple his office would not object to probation for Fark, and would recommended a one-year driver's license suspension at sentencing. Although no victims in the case were present in court, Pierce said they were notified of the plea agreement and were satisfied.
Fark was accompanied to court by his mother -- the only spectator other than media in the courtroom Wednesday.
According to the investigation by troopers with the Wapakoneta post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol and officers with the St. Marys Police Department, Fark and another man, Ryan Roby, now 27, of St. Marys, purchased $44.56 worth of alcohol at Chief Supermarket in St. Marys the evening before the fatal accident. A portion of the money for the alcohol was provided by the girls, the report said.
Sometime during the evening, Fark was charged with allowing Harris to drive his Mercury Topaz to get snacks at a nearby store and later allowed her to take it again just prior to the accident on state Route 29 about 5:30 a.m.
Fark denies he allowed Harris to take the vehicle prior to the wreck; he claims he was asleep although witnesses told officers he willingly let Harris take the keys. According to police reports, Fark reported his car missing about 9:30 a.m. -- four hours after the girls were killed.
The state patrol report said the girls were westbound when Harris lost control, slid off the roadway and struck a utility pole. Harris had an estimated blood-alcohol content of 0.8, Pierce stated in court. The 18-year-olds were found deceased inside the car.
The girls, related through adoption, graduated from area high schools just days earlier.
In an ongoing effort by Auglaize County law enforcement officers to put a stop to underage drinking, officers also arrested Roby, of 802 N. Jackson St., and charged him with a misdemeanor count of selling intoxicating beverages to an underage person and driving under suspension. His case remains pending in Auglaize County Municipal Court and is set for a pretrial hearing Dec. 21.
Pierce, following Wednesday's hearing, said this case should be a warning to others against providing alcohol to someone underage and/or a vehicle to anyone who is under the influence.
"I really think this case sends a message," he said.