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Evidence tossed in vehicular death case

Published: Sat, October 1, 2011 @ 12:03 a.m.

By John W. Goodwin Jr.



The court case against a Canfield woman charged with vehicular homicide may go forward, but it will have to be without statements made to police or the results of a blood-alcohol test.

Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court has ruled that the blood drawn at St. Elizabeth Health Center and sent to a laboratory for testing, along with statements made to police in the case against Rachel Zorger, 25, of Calla Road, are inadmissible in court.

Zorger is charged with two felony counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and one misdemeanor count of child endangering in the killing of her unborn child and a woman in an accident earlier this year.

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.

The patrol said she had a blood-alcohol level of 0.259. The legal limit in Ohio is 0.08.

Atty. Mark Lavelle, representing Zorger, asked the court to throw out the statements and blood work after an evidence suppression hearing Sept. 7. Prosecutors, according to the court, were invited but failed to present witnesses who could explain why the statements and blood work should be admitted at trial.

Court documents show that Judge Krichbaum, after the prosecution’s failure to introduce witnesses at the Sept. 7 hearing, ruled that any witnesses who were present in court but not presented would no longer be permitted to give testimony.

Kenneth Cardinal, an assistant county prosecutor, described the actions of the prosecutor previously handling the case as a “meltdown” and asked the court to impose a different form of sanction instead of barring testimony from the potential witnesses.

The judge said the order is not a punishment. He said an opportunity to present the witnesses was given, and prosecutors chose not to present them.

The defense argued that the tests to determine Zorger’s blood-alcohol level were not taken voluntarily and were coerced. The defense also argued that the person performing the tests did not act according to state regulations.

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