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Probation for man who hurt woman at reception

After foot was run over, she nearly died from infection

Staff photos / Ed Runyan Cecille Gahr is shown on a video monitor in the courtroom of Judge Maureen Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court on Monday before the sentencing hearing for Ryan Cene of Canfield. Cene pleaded guilty to vehicular assault and drunken driving for driving over Gahr’s foot at a wedding reception in Canfield in 2018, causing a serious foot injury that led to a life-threatening infection. At right is her attorney, John O’Neil.

YOUNGSTOWN — Cecille Gahr was at the wedding reception for her best friend Aug. 19, 2018, at the groom’s family home in Canfield when she attempted to enter a bus that had been hired for the event.

But the driver of the vehicle had left it running with the keys inside, and Ryan Cene, now 32, entered the vehicle.

While he was inside, Gahr tried to board the bus. But Cene, who was intoxicated, put the vehicle in reverse and ran over Gahr’s foot, Assistant Prosecutor Rob Andrews said.

On Monday, Cene, 32, of Pleasant Valley Lane in Canfield, pleaded guilty to vehicular assault and drunken driving. Judge Maureen Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court approved the sentence recommended by prosecutors — five years of probation, the first six months of it in a Community Corrections Association program.

He will be eligible for work-release privileges after the first seven days.

Cene’s driver’s license has been suspended since the accident, and that will continue for an additional 2 1/2 years. He also must perform 1,000 hour of community service through the Mothers Against Drunk Driving program if possible, the judge said.

Cene’s restitution to Gahr will be addressed in a pending civil suit, the judge said.

Gahr, 41, who lives in California, gave a lengthy victim impact statement from her home through videoconferencing, saying she approved the plea agreement because Cene was just one of the people responsible for her injuries, which almost killed her, she said. The driver who left the keys in the vehicle also is responsible, she said.

The accident resulted in a civil suit in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, filed by two insurance companies. The suit named Cene and numerous other parties as defendants, including Phantom Fireworks owner Bruce Zoldan. The reception was for his son and was at Bruce Zoldan’s home.

“In the early morning hours of Aug. 19, 2018, after watching my best friend get married, I planned to take a bus back to my hotel room to sleep before boarding a plane to come back to California — a bus which was hired to give guests a safe ride home and avoid drinking and driving and ensure a safe night for all,” Gahr said in her statement.

“Moments after attempting to board the bus, my leg was permanently and irrevocably changed by Ryan Cene.”

She found out that most of the bones in her foot were crushed.

“I needed emergency surgery … in an attempt to save my foot and lower leg. I was also told the skin on my foot and lower leg was ripped from the bone where the tire on the bus ran me over,” she said.

She stayed in Ohio a little over a week until she was stable enough to fly back to a hospital near her home. Doctors said she had dead tissue that had to be removed. She also was told she could lose her leg and might never walk again, she said.

The medication she was given for her foot caused an infection, she said. On Sept. 9, 2018, she was taken for surgery for a bowel infection that caused a condition called sepsis, which can be fatal, she said. She was in intensive care for a week.

She has had at least 20 surgeries, she said. “I cannot stand on my leg for long periods of time as the circulation has been permanently damaged,” she said.

“My gastrointestinal system is beyond repair,” she said. “In order to save my life from sepsis, they removed over 90 percent of my” large intestine, she said.

“What that means is that I have six to 12 episodes of urgent diarrhea every single day. It means most of the time, I would rather stay home than go anywhere,” she said.

“I am 41 years old, and I sometimes have to wear diapers in order to not be afraid to leave my house,” she said. She continues to need medication to fight off infection.

After her comments, Cene’s attorney, Jerry Ingram, said Cene has been dedicated to his counseling sessions since the accident and has tested negative for drugs and alcohol “throughout.”

Cene looked at the video screen and told Gahr, “Every day of my life, I regret my decisions that caused the tragedy that brings me before you,” he said. “There is nothing I can say or do that will put the pieces back together.”

erunyan@vindy.com

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