Drunken driver Zorger gets 5 years for killing unborn child, woman
By John W. Goodwin Jr.
Emotional and tearful statements were exchanged before the sentencing of a 26-year-old Canfield woman for aggravated vehicular homicide.
Rachel Zorger of Calla Road appeared Thursday before Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. Judge Krichbaum sentenced Zorger to five years in prison to be followed by three years’ probation. She also was ordered never to drive a motor vehicle again.
Zorger earlier this year pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide. She could have been sentenced from two to eight years in prison.
Darla Schumacher, 55, of Detwiler Road, was killed just after 5 p.m. April 12 when the car she was driving collided with Zorger’s car. The accident took place on Detwiler just south of Western Reserve Road in Beaver Township.
Zorger, who was six months pregnant at the time, drove left of center, causing the accident, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Zorger’s unborn child also died in the accident.
The patrol said she had a blood- alcohol level of 0.259. The legal limit in Ohio is 0.08.
Darla Schumacher’s son, Ethan, and husband, Gary, tearfully told the court what the loss of their mother and wife has meant to the Schumacher family.
Ethan Schumacher said he was on the phone with his mother when he heard the loud crash and his mother gasp for air. He said his mother’s life was taken by Zorger’s selfish act.
“You killed a wonderful woman and an innocent child,” he said. “I hope you ask for forgiveness and realize what you’ve done.”
Gary Schumacher said he had been married to his wife for 37 years. He said Zorger took “the rock of our family” by driving drunk. He asked the court for a considerable prison sentence.
“Your decision today may help save some other family from the pain my family has endured,” he said.
Kenneth Cardinal, an assistant county prosecutor, asked the court to impose the maximum eight-year sentence. He described Zorger as having little regard for anyone else who had been treated for substance abuse and admitted to continued abuse of marijuana, heroin and alcohol.
“This woman was driving an unguided missile down the highway. ... At the time she killed this lady, she had previously had two convictions for drunk driving and was under probation to another court for driving a motor vehicle under the influence,” he said. “In my mind this shows someone who does not care about herself, her unborn children or anyone else. She should be in prison.”
Zorger cried as she apologized to the Schumacher family but said she did not have the right to ask for forgiveness until she has been fully rehabilitated for her substance abuse. She said she wants to reach out to others with substance abuse problems when she is released from prison.
Atty. Mark LaVelle, representing Zorger, recounted his client’s troubled past including a childhood where alcohol abuse was witnessed, alcohol abuse since her teens, a suicide attempt and psychological problems while in the military.
LaVelle said he feels sorrow and pity for the Schumacher family, but said his client does not deserve a lengthy prison sentence. He said Zorger is genuinely remorseful and questions why she did not die in the accident.
LaVelle asked for a two- or three-year prison term saying the court is left to determine justice in the case.
Judge Krichbaum said the judicial system is “woefully inadequate” to address all the circumstances in the case. He offered the family condolences, but said there is no remedy from the court that can help their suffering. Neither side is likely to leave the court happy, he said.
“This causes the court a great deal of sadness, a great deal of difficulty,” he said. “Whatever number I choose for her to spend in the penitentiary will not satisfy anybody, certainly will not satisfy me.”
The judge said Zorger has placed herself in her own personal prison living with the fact that she has killed a woman and lost her own unborn child as a result of drunken driving.
The judge then handed down the five-year prison sentence and lifetime driving suspension.