Hunter agrees to plea deal in fatal buggy mishap

Official court action expected next week

By Jim Painter - For the Sidney Daily News



SIDNEY – The Sidney man who is facing multiple charges in the vehicular death of a 23-year-old Amish woman of Maplewood, who was she riding in a buggy with her family, has agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors. However, court action was halted when it was determined additional steps were needed regarding the terms before it could be carried out.

On Thursday, Steven E. Hunter, 43, of Sidney, sat in the Shelby County Common Pleas Court shackled at the hands and feet, attired in a jail-issued orange jumpsuit, awaiting his final pretrial hearing for 90 minutes. A hearing that never took place in open court.

A final pretrial is the deadline for a defendant to determine if he or she will continue on to a jury trial, or to work out a negotiated agreement with prosecutors that may result in a lesser penalty.

After multiple closed-door negotiation sessions between Shelby County Prosecutor Tim Sell and Andrew Venters, of Troy, Hunter’s attorney, the determination was explained. Sell told the SDN that Hunter has agreed to a plea bargain but was unable to elaborate on the details until the case is finalized in court. He anticipates a possible court date next week.

Sell explained additional time was needed by both the prosecution and defense to solidify the agreement with others not in attendance Thursday. Hunter remains incarcerated at the Shelby County Jail on a $75,000 bond.

On May 10, the Shelby County grand jury indicted Hunter on five felony charges regarding the incident.

Hunter is charged with one count of aggravated vehicular homicide, a first-degree felony; three counts of aggravated vehicular assault, all second-degree felonies; and a count of not stopping after an accident, a second-degree felony. The indictment noted Hunter was allegedly driving impaired when the accident occurred.

Hunter is accused of being the driver of a truck that collided with a horse-drawn buggy along the 22000 block of State route 47 at the Logan-Shelby County line. Several law enforcement reports claim Hunter was behind the wheel at the time of the accident.

At 8:40 p.m., the Logan County Sheriff’s Department received a call that a 1998 Chevrolet Suburban had struck a buggy being used by an Amish family. Authorities reportedly found Sarah Schwartz, 23, dead at the scene.

Her husband, Henry, 26, and their children, Elmer, 18 months, and Ester, four months, were injured. The children were taken by CareFlight to a Dayton hospital. Mr. Schwartz was first taken to Wilson Health then transported to a Dayton hospital.

According to online court records, Logan County Sheriff’s Deputy Adam Wood found Mrs. Schwartz lying in the roadway deceased among the debris when he first arrived at the scene. His report also indicates he found Henry lying face down in a ditch near Elmer. A bystander was holding Ester while seated in a ditch.

Wood indicated that once the family was receiving medical care, he began searching for the driver of the Suburban. A witness told authorities the driver, allegedly Hunter, had attempted to drive the Suburban out of the ditch, but was unable to do so.

The witness claims they spoke to the driver who allegedly told them authorities had already been contacted, so they didn’t need to do so. However, the driver was not at the scene of the accident.

A short time later, deputies confirmed the truck was registered to Hunter along with identifying material inside the vehicle. With several officers looking for Hunter, he was found in a nearby cornfield and running from authorities. Once taken into custody, Hunter allegedly began yelling that someone had stolen his truck.

Deputies noted they reportedly found a strong odor of alcohol on Hunter. Shelby County Sheriff’s Deputy Frank Bleigh noted in his report that Hunter’s driver’s license was suspended due to two convictions for operating a motor vehicle while impaired within the past six years.

Wood explained in the report that the buggy was properly lit for the trip.

Official court action expected next week

By Jim Painter

For the Sidney Daily News

The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.

The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.