Fatal, drunken crash yields man four years

Staff photo / Ed Runyan John Wardle, right, got emotional while talking to Judge Anthony Donofrio of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday as he was sentenced to four years in prison for being drunk and crashing a car, killing a friend. His attorneys, from left, are Kevin Daley and Mark Hanni.

YOUNGSTOWN — John A. Wardle, 32, of South Avenue, was sentenced to four years in prison Wednesday for being the drunk driver who crashed a car at 2:15 a.m. July 8, 2019, on state Route 164 in Beaver Township that killed passenger Mohammad Musleh, 28.

Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Trapp told Judge Anthony Donofrio that Wardle’s blood alcohol level was .201 — nearly three times the legal limit of .08, and he was driving 75 to 78 mph in a 45 mph zone when the crash took place. The road has only two lanes.

“After passing a semi on that road, the defendant lost control of his vehicle, rolled over into a ditch, and Mr. Musleh was killed right away,” Trapp said.

Wardle and Musleh were best friends, and many of the 15 or so people in the courtroom were also friends of Wardle and Musleh, Trapp said.

“I have no doubt that everyone in this room — the friends, associates and family of Mr. Wardle — are sad. They lost a friend,” Trapp said. About 15 or so people appeared to be there in support of Wardle.

“The Muslehs right behind me lost a son, one of four, their youngest son,” Trapp said of Musleh’s parents.

Before sentencing, Wardle said, “Most of my life I ran from my problems. I hid behind drugs and alcohol and told myself everything was OK, and I just liked to party. I don’t think I ever realized the ramifications of how much my selfishness could hurt someone until July 8, 2019.”

Wardle’s attorney, Mark Hanni, called Wardle “the most remorseful defendant I have ever seen.” He said Wardle went through detoxification and has received mental health treatment.

Trapp and Donofrio both pointed out that Wardle had two earlier drunken driving offenses — in 2012 and 2016 — and a 2015 offense that started out as drunken driving but was reduced to failure to maintain physical control. Wardle also had cocaine metabolite in his system during the fatal crash, Trapp said.

“The defendant may not have wanted this to happen, but he sure as hell asked for it,” Trapp said.

The prosecution and defense jointly asked for Wardle to get four years in prison on convictions of aggravated vehicular homicide, vandalism and drunken driving. His driver’s license will be suspended for six years, and he was fined $850. He also must attend mandatory drug and alcohol treatment and forfeit all vehicles he owns.

Wardle seemed to be shaking his head yes as he learned his sentence.

Musleh’s parents did not give a victim impact statement but gave a written one to the judge.

Donofrio said it was a mistake for Wardle to work as a bartender with a drinking problem. But the judge said he believes Wardle is extremely remorseful and “made efforts to turn his life around and deal with his drug and alcohol issues.”


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