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The Journal Gazette

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Saturday, June 09, 2018 1:00 am

No prison for driver who left fatal crash

Hit car on Jefferson; 2 died in collision that followed

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

A Fort Wayne man who admitted walking away from a crash last year that left two people dead will not spend time in prison.

Justin T. Votaw, 32, was sentenced Friday in Allen Superior Court to three years on home detention, which will be followed by four years' probation. His driver's license was suspended for two years, and he was ordered to pay $3,472.87 to the mother of one of the victims.

Votaw was driving west on West Jefferson Boulevard in a 2002 BMW on Feb. 20, 2017, when he bumped a 2004 Volkswagen Jetta with Alisa Arseneau, 24, and Jonathan Tracy, 23, inside.

The Volkswagen, which was also traveling west, crashed head-on into an eastbound Chevrolet Equinox and burst into flames, according to court documents. Arseneau and Tracy were killed.

Debra and Tony Ferraro were in the Chevrolet and were injured in the crash. A passenger in the BMW, Randy Coleman, was also injured.

Votaw admitted driving the BMW but was not charged with causing the wreck, though prosecutors have said in court filings that he bears some responsibility. He pleaded guilty in April to five counts – including three felonies – of leaving the scene of an accident.

A visibly emotional Votaw apologized to victims at a court hearing in May. Victims and their families told him and Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck at the hearing their lives have changed irreparably.

Tony Ferraro asked Surbeck to send Votaw to prison.

Defense attorney Randy Fisher argued in court documents for a lenient sentence, noting that Votaw pleaded guilty without a plea agreement from prosecutors and his client's “sincere expression of remorse.”

In a sentencing memorandum filed last week, Fisher said prison time would be a hardship on Votaw's three children. He also blamed Tracy for causing the wreck.

“By all witness and expert accounts, Mr. Tracy caused the accident that caused his death, the death of Ms. Arseneau and the injuries to Mr. and Mrs. Ferraro, Randy Coleman and Mr. Votaw,” Fisher wrote.

Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Adam Mildred countered, saying in court documents that Votaw admitted to driving the BMW faster “in response to the other driver.”

The Ferraros are suing Votaw, Tracy's estate, Geico insurance company and Ashley Burda, who owned the BMW. They are seeking damages for medical expenses and lost wages.

A hearing in that case is scheduled for June 15.