SIDNEY – Kathryn Unrast of St. Henry stood before the court Wednesday and wept as the wife of the man she killed in a traffic mishap nearly a year ago unleashed angry, terse comments in speaking from the heart.
Unrast left the courtroom handcuffed and shackled for 90-day stay at the county jail.
Before sentencing Unrast to 90 days in jail, Judge James Stevenson called her “a menace” on the highways.
Nearly 30 people gathered in Shelby County Common Pleas Court for the sentencing. Friends and family, of both Unrast and John Fullenkamp’s wife, Leah, was on hand.
Before Unrast was sentenced, Stevenson allowed a victim statement. Leah Fullenkamp was the only person who spoke.
With purpose and fortitude, she spoke about her and her four children while staring at Unrast.
“It’s been 361 days since you killed my husband,” Leah Fullenkamp said. “My children cry every single night for their father. I hope you come to know what that feels like.
“What do I say to my 6-year-old son? What do I say to my 4-year-old son? My 9-year-old daughter had wrapped a Father’s Day gift for him. Now, that’s a gift will never be opened.”
She spoke of the goal that she and her husband had to buy a farm and raise their family there, which was purchased last year.
“That was our dream,” she said. “Now, because you killed my husband, instead, I’m a single mother with four kids. I’m now living a nightmare that I will never wake up from.”
She concluded, “I hope today we get a sentence that I won’t be ashamed to tell my kids about.”
Unrast, 55, was sentenced to 90 days in the Shelby County Jail without work release privileges on a charge of attempted aggravated vehicular homicide, a fourth-degree felony. Stevenson said Unrast needed to understand the lifestyle changes she must undergo as fourth-degree felonies usually result on probation instead of jail time.
Stevenson admonished Unrast for her reckless behavior in her role in the death. He pointed out Unrast’s driving history including a speeding ticket (68 mph in 55 mph zone on Dec. 28) while the case of Fullenkamp’s death was still being adjudicated.
“You have seven traffic violations including a speeding ticket after the accident,” Stevenson said. “Also, three seat belt and two stop sign tickets. That signifies just the ones you got caught on. It’s clear you are a menace to be driving on the highways.”
Unrast also was placed on five years on probation, had her driver’s license suspended for five years, must pass a remedial driving course, was ordered to undergo mental health counseling, was fined $500 and was assessed court costs.
In an unusual court order, Unrast was told she must develop a program to be used in schools and driver training schools where she is to publicly speak about the crash.
After the court adjourned, Leah Fullenkamp preferred not to make any comments to The Sidney Daily News regarding the sentencing outcome.
On April 29, Unrast admitted in court that while driving, she was shopping online through her cell phone when her car struck a farm tractor at 59 mph. Prosecutors told the court Unrast looked at her phone constantly for up to 16 seconds before the collision.
A plea agreement reached with prosecutors that day during her final pretrial led to her pleading no contest to an amended charge.
That day, Stevenson declared she was guilty in the case, also telling her he is not bound by any promises made to her about sentencing by any attorneys.
The plea agreement called for a joint recommendation for probation by local prosecutors and defense attorneys. Unrast faced a maximum of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. A mandatory suspension of her driver’s license was to be from three years to a lifetime driving ban.
Unrast, who resides at 3563 State Route 119, St. Henry, originally was charged with aggravated vehicular homicide, a third-degree felony. She was represented by attorney Michael Streng of Marysville.
At the April 29 hearing, Stevenson reviewed the no contest plea with Unrast, which is not an admission of guilt, but also waived her assumption of innocence. The plea denotes Unrast did not dispute the facts of the case that may have resulted in a conviction. Online court records show Stevenson could have imposed a sentence the same as if Unrast was found guilty during a jury trial.
According to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, Fullenkamp was driving a tractor pulling an agricultural sprayer southbound in the 11000 block of State Route 29 in Turtle Creek Township at approximately 4 p.m.
Unrast was driving a white 2009 Cadillac Escalade, also southbound, at 59 mph behind the tractor. While distracted by online sales at J.C. Penny, Unrast’s vehicle struck the sprayer and tractor in the rear, ejecting Fullenkamp.
Following the crash, Unrast was transported to Wilson Health by Fort Loramie Rescue where she was treated and released.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.