A Fostoria man who pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide in July in connection to the death of 9-year-old Mavin Hamilton was sentenced to a year in prison Wednesday.
A lifetime driver's license suspension also was imposed for George R. Tucker, 74, who apologized to Hamilton's family before the announcement of his sentence.
"I'd like to apologize to the family first," Tucker said. "I'm sorry that this accident happened."
Tucker said Hamilton ran in front of his truck, and even though he had alcohol in his system at time of the crash, he said he didn't believe he could have stopped the truck in time, even without the presence of alcohol.
"Everybody has been really hard on me for this accident ... but I have to live with this for the rest of my life," he said. "Every time I see young kids on the street, that day reflects back to me."
Tucker was driving a pickup truck on Columbus Avenue in Fostoria Nov. 15 when Hamilton was struck. He died two days later from his injuries at the Toledo Hospital.
Alcohol and speed were both factors in the crash, according to Seneca County Prosecutor Derek DeVine.
"It's very difficult for Mr. Tucker to get his head around the fact that there's a young boy who isn't on the earth as a result of this tragedy," said Dean Henry, Tucker's attorney. "This matter, at least by my eyes, has greatly affected him."
Henry asked Seneca County Common Pleas Judge Michael Kelbley to impose alternative sanctions instead of a prison term.
"A long prison sentence won't punish Mr. Tucker any more than the vision of what he has," Henry said.
Pastors, friends and family of Tucker spoke Wednesday, and also asked Kelbley to be lenient.
"He is one of the finest gentlemen I know and that I've met since I've been in Fostoria for 16 years," said the Rev. T.A. Smith of First Baptist Church in Fostoria.
Smith said Tucker was visibly torn by the accident and had a great measure of regret.
"All humans are flawed and all have our struggles in one area or another," Smith said. "We should have respect for those who have the strength to admit their flaws or weaknesses."
DeVine asked Kelbley to impose a prison sentence that would adequately punish Tucker and teach the community that drinking and driving is not acceptable.
"We're looking beyond what he did wrong. We're looking at the results of operating a vehicle under the influence and going too fast," DeVine said. "The community needs to know that if you engage in this type of misdemeanor behavior, there are felony consequences and punishments for that."
DeVine, who called Tucker's behavior reckless, suggested a 54-month prison sentence and a lifetime license suspension.
As a slideshow of photographs of Hamilton then played in the courtroom, Lidia Lee of the Seneca County Victim Assistance Program read aloud several letters from friends and family of Hamilton.
"You have robbed so many of us of one of the greatest little boys I have ever met," said a letter from the mother of one of Hamilton's friends.
"He was a very sweet and tender-hearted young man," Hamilton's bus driver said in a letter. "Mavin's generosity and thoughtfulness will always be remembered."
Hamilton's father and mother also spoke Wednesday before announcement of Tucker's sentence.
Leslie Kroetz, Hamilton's mother, described Hamilton as having a warm and loving soul toward everyone.
"Mavin was becoming a young man. He had so many dreams and goals," she said.
Kroetz said Nov. 15 started out as a normal day and Hamilton had been on his way to a gas station to pick up snacks for his sisters when he was struck by Tucker's truck.
A woman then knocked on her door to inform her of the accident, and she ran to the scene.
She covered Hamilton with her coat and frantically tried to get him to talk as she waited for police and medics to arrive.
At the hospital, she was informed by doctors that Hamilton had severe brain swelling. Two days later, after being declared brain dead, he died.
Kroetz said Hamilton's organs were donated and saved four lives.
"His heart still beats today," she said.
Kroetz said Tucker's actions could never be expressed in words.
"It's a long road of heartache with so many people left broken along the way," she said. "Mavin was 9 years old. He had his whole life ahead of him."