December 25, 2014

Elyria
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Driver in fatal DUI crash takes plea


ELYRIA – A Lorain man who sped off from a drunken driving stop and slammed into another car, killing the driver, pleaded guilty Monday to charges that could send him to prison for 23 years.

BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE
Phillip Stern II fills out paperwork Monday with attorney Dennis Evans as he works on his plea agreement.

Had Phillip Stern II gotten out of the car when asked by police, he likely would have faced only six months in jail had he ultimately been convicted of DUI.

His voice breaking, Stern entered guilty pleas before county Common Pleas Judge Edward Zaleski to charges of aggravated vehicular homicide, drunken driving, failure to comply and involuntary manslaughter. He will be sentenced at a later date.

“He`s accepted full responsibility for his actions,” said Dennis Evans, one Stern`s attorneys, after the hearing.

County Prosecutor Dennis Will said his office plans to push for Stern, 34, to get a sentence “in the double digits.”

“Clearly, it was one of those incidents of a bad decision on his part and it ended with an individual losing her life,” Will said. “It`s a worst-case scenario of DUI and fleeing police.”

Stern was stopped by Amherst police about 1:15 a.m. Sept. 16, 2006, on North Main Street. He refused to get out of his Ford Ranger pickup when asked by police, telling them he had done nothing wrong and was on his way to his father`s house.

As Stern talked with one officer, another officer tried to open the passenger door of the pickup with a “Slim Jim” – prompting Stern to speed away. The officer talking to Stern smashed his driver`s side window with a flashlight in an effort to stop Stern.

Stern hit speeds of 55 mph as he drove away, turning onto Cooper Foster Park Road. When he blew through a red light at Leavitt Road, he broadsided a Pontiac Grand Am driven by 51-year-old Sheila Pierce of Grafton, who was killed instantly.

Stern was also injured in the crash, which police dashboard cameras caught in its entirety. Evans had tried to have the tapes thrown out as evidence in the case, but he later dropped the request.

Police later determined that Stern had a blood-alcohol level of 0.238, nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.