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TRUMBULL COUNTY Judge cuts sentence in hit-skip homicide



Published: Wed, February 20, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Howland man has served two years and four months in prison.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- A 22-year-old Howland Township man will have to serve 14 more months in prison before he is released, a judge has ruled.

Judge John Stuard of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court ruled Tuesday that John Neilan should not have to serve five years, but "has not spent sufficient time in prison."

Neilan, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated vehicular homicide in the death of Fred W. Wilkerson of Howland in 1998, was sentenced by Judge Stuard to a five-year prison sentence Oct. 7, 1999.

Neilan has served two years and four months.

The judge ruled that Neilan can be released after serving three years and six months. Once released, Neilan will have to serve six months at the North East Ohio Corrections facility in Warren and then six months' house arrest, the judge said. Neilan also will get five years' probation.

The ruling states that the judge decided to trim Neilan's sentence because the defendant did not have a prior felony record and has expressed remorse for his actions.

Objection: Prosecutors could not be reached to comment, but Diane Barber, an assistant county prosecutor, has objected to Neilan's release. She said she believes that Neilan should have to serve "at least four years in prison."

Atty. Michael Scala, who represents Neilan, said his client has behaved well in prison, completed several rehabilitation programs and is a good candidate for early release.

What happened: The Ohio State Highway Patrol said Neilan was driving a sport utility vehicle that struck and killed Wilkerson, who had gone out to get the mail at his Stillwagon Road home Dec. 22, 1998.

Neilan, who was delivering food for a local restaurant at the time of the crash, fled the scene, police said.

Prosecutors said in their motion opposing early release that Neilan left Wilkerson "in pieces scattered throughout the roadway only to nonchalantly return to a party [he had been attending prior to the crash]."

Neilan surrendered the next day.

sinkovich@vindy.com




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