Prosecution will proceed in deadly boat crash


By Peter H. MILLIKEN

milliken@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

The prosecution will not appeal a judge’s decision to exclude blood and urine samples from evidence in the trial of a surgeon charged in a fatal Berlin Reservoir boat crash last year.

“We have enough evidence to proceed without it,” explained Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul J. Gains.

State law allows prosecutors to appeal only if exclusion of the evidence would prevent them from proceeding with the case, Gains said.

Judge John M. Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court excluded the blood and urine samples taken from Dr. Joseph F. Yurich, 37, of Hunter’s Hill, Poland, because they went unrefrigerated for more than 62 hours before being taken to a forensic laboratory.

Judge Durkin said Dr. Yurich’s statements to a detective are admissible as evidence, however.

Dr. Yurich is charged with aggravated vehicular homicide in the death of Neal Cuppett, 58, of Akron, from injuries he suffered in the May 9, 2015, crash.

Dr. Yurich also is charged with aggravated vehicular assault involving the injuries suffered by Cuppett’s fishing buddy, Bruce Lindamood, 42, of Green, and with failure to stop after an accident and two counts of operating a watercraft while impaired.

The crash ejected Cuppett and Lindamood from the boat they occupied into the water.

Prosecutors say that boat was lighted and stationary.

Dr. Yurich told Lt. Greg Johnson, chief of detectives with the Portage County Sheriff’s Office, he was alone on his boat, didn’t see any lights on the boat he had hit, had “a couple” of beers before the crash and didn’t mean to kill anyone, according to a court filing by the prosecution.

At the dock after the 12:10 a.m. crash, Johnson noted severe damage to the left front side of Dr. Yurich’s boat above the water line, with a hole punched through the fiberglass hull.

However, in an August evidentiary hearing, Lt. Johnson testified he detected in Dr. Yurich no disorientation or slurred speech, and that Dr. Yurich had no trouble walking to the boat dock after the crash.

In a post-crash sample the judge excluded from evidence, Dr. Yurich had a blood-alcohol content of 0.152, nearly double the legal limit of 0.08, a toxicologist reported.

A pre-trial hearing in the case will take place at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 9, and the jury trial will begin Nov. 28.

Dawn Cantalamessa, chief trial counsel for the county prosecutor’s criminal division, said she is ready to go to trial Nov. 28 and that Lindamood and Lt. Johnson will be on her witness list.

Cantalamessa said she has an audio recording of the conversations between Lt. Johnson and Dr. Yurich, surveillance video of Dr. Yurich at a local bar and restaurant before the crash, together with a crash reconstruction study showing that Dr. Yurich was speeding that night, when his boat should have made no wake.

Lynn Maro, a lawyer for Dr. Yurich, declined to comment on the case.

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