The highway patrol hasn't determined how long the suspect was socializing before the accident.
By TIM YOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
HUBBARD -- The Ohio State Highway Patrol says the driver identified as the suspect in an April 4 fatal hit-skip was drinking at a local veterans club beforehand.
Sgt. Joseph Dragovich said William Demidovich, 69, of Hubbard Township was at VFW Post 3767 on West Liberty Street. The club is only a short distance from the accident scene.
Dragovich said witnesses told the patrol that Demidovich, who hasn't been charged with any wrongdoing, was drinking and playing pool at the post before the crash.
Demidovich is said to be a regular at Post 3767.
The patrol has identified Demidovich as the driver of a red Lincoln Continental that plowed into a group of teenage girls who were walking along state Route 304 in front of Pine Lakes Golf Course.
Killed and injured
Killed was 14-year-old Kyrsten Studer of Grandview Avenue. Five other girls, all ages 14 and 15, were released after treatment at area hospitals.
Demidovich could not be reached at his home.
Larry Cox, Demidovich's next-door neighbor, said Demidovich's girlfriend's car, which has Pennsylvania plates, pulled into the driveway behind Demidovich the night of the crash.
Cox said he hasn't seen Demidovich since that night, but he has seen the girlfriend's car in the driveway. Cox noted he never saw anyone except Demidovich drive his Lincoln.
The case is expected to be presented directly to the grand jury.
"We want to make sure we have it in order," Dragovich said, noting that some evidence hasn't come back from the patrol's crime lab in Columbus.
After a criminal charge is filed, the prosecution has 90 days to bring it to trial if the defendant is being held in jail in lieu of bond, unless a time waiver is signed. If the defendant is free on bond, the case must go to trial within 270 days.
The patrol has said a westbound red car went off the road and struck the girls.
Dragovich said an accident reconstructionist has determined the girls were walking off the road and not in the right of way.
The car sped off, but investigators found a side-view mirror.
When Hubbard Township police located Demidovich's car at his mobile home in Stoneybrooke Village, a mobile home park off Lewis-Seifert Road, the passenger-side mirror was missing.
The trooper would not comment about whether speed was a factor.
Dragovich did say alcohol played a role in the crash; that investigators smelled alcohol on Demidovich's breath when he was taken into custody at his home, less than an hour after the 7:20 p.m. accident.
He was taken to Trumbull Memorial Hospital for a blood-alcohol test, which police can require after a fatality.
The patrol has the preliminary results of the blood-alcohol test, but it won't make them public until after the written report is received.
Dragovich said that after the blood test, Demidovich's Warren lawyer, John Leopardi, asked that any questions about the case go through him.
Leopardi did not return a message left at his office seeking comment.