Zorger pleads guilty in crash that killed fetus, another woman

By Ashley Luthern



A 26-year-old Canfield woman pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated vehicular homicide Thursday for her role in a car accident that left her fetus dead and killed a 55-year-old woman.

Raechel Zorger entered the plea in front of Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court and will be sentenced at 9 a.m. Dec. 20.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol said Zorger swerved left on Detwiler Road in Beaver Township on April 12, hitting a car driven by Darla Schumacher, 55, of Detwiler Road. The patrol said Zorger had a blood-alcohol level of 0.259. The legal limit in Ohio is 0.08.

Zorger also was charged with another count of aggravated vehicular homicide and one misdemeanor count of child endangering in the death of her unborn child.

Those two charges were dismissed by prosecutors Thursday when evidence about the fetus’ viability was not permitted. Judge Krichbaum did not allow the prosecution’s expert report from a doctor at Akron Children’s Hospital based on the rule that expert reports should be disclosed “no later than 21 days prior to trial, which ... may be modified by the court for good cause shown.”

Prosecutors had requested medical records for the expert opinion well before that deadline, but the judge did not grant the requests until the deadline had passed. The requests were prompted after a coroner’s report in August stated the fetus weighed 377 grams — or 13.29 ounces — and was 23 weeks and five days old.

“... The fetus was so small ... giving rise to the viability issue and question as to the gestational age, due to [Zorger’s] own action of reportedly smoking 20 cigarettes a day and drinking alcohol during her pregnancy. It is because of her actions and not the state’s actions that the issue of viability was even present,” according to a motion prosecutors filed Thursday.

In the motion for reconsideration, prosecutors wrote, “The court has ruled that the information that the court just permitted the state to obtain cannot be used at trial. ... If that is the case, the state will be forced to dismiss the counts pertaining to the fetus despite the fact that the fetus was viable.”

Prosecutors dismissed the charges relating to the fetus and recommended the maximum sentence of eight years in prison after Zorger pleaded guilty.

Last month, Judge Krichbaum ruled that the blood drawn at St. Elizabeth Health Center and statements made to police against Zorger were inadmissible, after the prosecution’s failure to introduce witnesses at a Sept. 7 hearing.

Zorger was charged in two other incidents involving alcohol in the past five years.

In February 2009, she pleaded no contest to charges of child endangering, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct while intoxicated and was found guilty by a judge. She was sentenced to pay a fine, placed on probation and ordered to seek drug and alcohol treatment, according to court records.

In April 2006, Shenango Township police charged Zorger with driving under the influence. As a first-time offender, she was entered into Pennsylvania Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, allowing her to stay out of jail, avoid a one-year license suspension and keep her record clean, according to court documents.

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