On May 23, 2012, Kelly Cox was driving her Chrysler Pacifica along Rapids Road near Chardon, Ohio… while drunk… very drunk…with kids in the car… She ran into, and killed, Geauga County Judge Chip Henry. Regular readers here know that I’ve written a good bit about this case already – and won’t reiterate what I’ve written here, here and here.
Cox was charged with a number of crimes – the most serious being aggravated vehicular homicide. Since she failed to stop, drove to her home, dropped off her kids and returned, she was charged with a felony – leaving the scene as well as child endangerment. She plead not guilty to all charges and filed a motion to challenge the drug testing – testing which indicated she was driving was an amazingly high BAC of 0.284%. The case was set for trial. Prior to the trial she withdrew the motion.
On the morning of trial, negotiations got under way and Cox ended up pleading guilty to a number of crimes, including aggravated vehicular homicide. Following that plea, I suggested that YOU, readers, could become involved by sending letters to the prosecutor expressing your views on sentencing – many of you did as some 80 letters were received.
Cox plead guilty… but… let’s just say she was STILL less than forthcoming when she told the court she was pleading guilty.
Below is the transcript of the plea hearing from January 23, 2012. On pages 19-20 you can read what Ms. Cox told the court about the crash… and her “drinking.” She indicated she had had “a glass” earlier in the day… yet somehow blew a 0.284% after killing the judge. You can watch Ms. Cox here.
After the Plea was made the Judge set the matter for sentencing on February 25, 2012. The court ordered an investigation. The family of Judge Henry prepared to speak out, really, for the first time in this matter. You can read the entire 45 page transcript from the sentencing hearing below.
Judge Henry’s family spoke eloquently, forcefully, in urging the court to impose the maximum sentence. His younger sister, Polly, spoke first, expressing the outrage and anger the family felt – not as much about the crash as about Ms. Cox’s continuing, ongoing lies about how much she had to drink. Polly discussed the various reasons why society punishes criminals and advised the court that the family was not looking for retribution but DID feel that taking Ms. Cox away from society so she could not hurt anyone else was a very valid reason to impose a stiff sentence. Mostly, though, Polly hoped that a long sentence would lead to rehabilitation for Ms. Cox.
Judge Henry’s brother, Jim, spoke about the night of the crash – how he and his brother were ready to head to the airport to pick up their mom when they found out the plane was delayed. Judge Henry then went for a bike ride while Jim went for a run. Jim then had to tell their mom about the crash and Judge Henry’s death.
The Judge’s daughter, Kim, spoke next – emotionally and powerfully. She described how Ms. Cox’s refusal to take responsibility had hurt the family, and made the healing process “… as difficult as possible…” by lying every day since the crash, and lying to their face during the plea hearing. She wondered why Ms. Cox left her dad on the side of the road to die…”What kind of person doesn’t even call 911?” She talked about the deep loss of losing a father – and the pain she felt when she thinks about how much he would be missing.
The Judge’s son, Adam, told the court what it was like to get that call from him Mom telling him his dad had been killed. He talked about the huge hole in his life, and the pain and loneliness – about how Kelly Cox’s actions have created pain during what should have been an incredibly happy time as he had recently proposed to his girlfriend. Adam read to the court a very moving letter he wrote to his Dad – saying things that anyone who lost anyone close has also said – how he wished he had asked his Dad more questions and talked to him about his life.
When it was the defense’s turn to talk it was all about excuses – how Ms. Cox had had a rough life -how she had been “self-medicating” for years. “There’s not a person in this courtroom who would not be affected significantly” by what Ms. Cox went through “…years ago…” Gary Cox, Kelly’s husband, addressed the court and suggested that she is a “good person who has made a tragic mistake…” while offering sympathy for the Judge’s family. Cox’s sister also stood up to apologize to the Henry family.
Kelly Cox then briefly spoke – her attorney asked that she be allowed to turn around and address the family sitting in the gallery behind her rather than face the court [a tactic which, I suspect, the family found to be cheesy, overly dramatic and only for effect]. Cox said she was sorry – admitted “Was I drinking? Yes I was” but claimed she would have never “maliciously” hurt anyone and would never “let someone stay on the side of the road.”
Except… of course… she did… hit someone … and leave them dying on the side of the road…
Did she act “maliciously?” That’s certainly open for debate – drinking oneself into a 0.28% BAC stupor, putting your kids in the car and then trying to drive goes far beyond careless and negligent and shows a complete and callous disregard for the lives of others.
The judge then spoke to Ms. Cox. He did not mince words. He noted that it was her drinking and driving that brought her to the court – despite the fact that her husband was with her and could have driven her home and despite the fact that she had a cell phone and could have called a cab, or a friend. The court said, “…like most people who drink, it is all about you. You drink because you wallow in self-pity and thus do not take responsibility for your actions…you look at this death as a horrible accident in which the role you played is minimal. You feel you are a victim of circumstance…Your explanations minimize your responsibility for the death.” After reading the pre sentence report the judge told Ms. Cox he had “…concluded that you have no real remorse for your actions, only excuses…” The judge spoke for over 10 pages on the record…
In the end, Judge Mitrovich imposed a 9.5 year prison sentence on Kelly Cox. The court noted that a failure to impose consecutive sentences would “…demean the seriousness of the offense and would not sufficiently punish the offender, nor protect the public…”
Judge Mitrovich’s statement to Kelly Cox should be used as a model by judges, and bicycle advocates, in future cases in which a motorist makes stupid excuses for killing an innocent rider.
So, the criminal case is done – Kelly Cox is serving time at the Ohio Reformatory for Women. According to the State of Ohio’s “Offender Search” website, her sentence expires on August 22, 2021 – at which time Judge Henry will still be dead, his family will still be grieving but Kelly Cox will be a free woman…