By Joe Gorman
A woman who was sentenced to five years in prison for killing a motorcyclist in a 2012 drunken-driving crash told Judge James C. Evans that her own mother was killed by a drunken driver when she was 6.
Jill Bissett, 49, of Struthers, also said Thursday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court that she is truly sorry for the accident that killed 20-year-old Tammy Miller and wanted to take responsibility for her actions.
Bissett pleaded guilty May 19 to counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, a second-degree felony, and driving under the influence of alcohol, a first-degree misdemeanor.
She admitted driving drunk during a May 4, 2012, accident in which Miller was killed.
As part of the plea agreement, county prosecutors agreed to stand silent when Bissett was sentenced.
The accident occurred on state Route 289 just east of Sixth Street in Poland Township. Troopers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol said Bissett was westbound on Route 289 in a 2002 Ford Taurus when she traveled left of center and struck Miller’s motorcycle, which was eastbound.
Miller died later at St. Elizabeth Health Center, and Bissett was treated there for minor injuries.
Miller’s parents, Arthur and Mary Miller, were on hand along with several family members. Bissett also had several family members on hand for support.
Arthur Miller said he was satisfied with the sentence. The Millers said their daughter loved animals and motorcycles and was very kind.
“If she only had $10 to her name she would make sure she brought Christmas presents for everyone,” Mary Miller said of her daughter, who was one of nine siblings.
Judge Evans said a pre-sentence investigation showed that Bissett also had Xanax, a sedative, in her system with alcohol when she hit Miller. Her blood-alcohol content was .216 when a blood sample was taken after the crash. The legal limit for drunken driving in Ohio is .08.
Bissett’s attorney, James Lanzo, said his client is an alcoholic who was placed in a psychiatric ward after the accident because of her grief.
Judge Evans said it is up to Bissett to stay sober. Bissett said she has been sober since the accident.
“There’s no punishment that can cure you other than yourself,” Judge Evans said. “I’m sure, as a human being, you knew you shouldn’t have got behind the wheel of that car.”
Bissett could have received up to eight years in prison. The six-month maximum sentence for DUI will run concurrently with her felony conviction.
Court records show only a seat-belt violation in Mahoning County Area Court in Canfield in 2003 on Bissett’s record, and a failure-to-control violation in 2011 from Struthers Municipal Court, which was pleaded down from a DUI.