April 24, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
47°F
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Driver in fatal crash in custody

ELYRIA — Gerald Wetherbee Jr. was arrested Tuesday for allegations that his involvement in a June 11 car crash, which killed two people and left two others critically injured, violated the conditions of his parole.

Wetherbee, 35, was released last week from MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, where he was taken after the crash.

JoEllen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said Wetherbee was arrested without incident at his home Tuesday. She said he was taken to Lorain Correctional Institution in Grafton, which sits on state Route 83, the same road where the crash took place.

Depending on Wetherbee’s medical condition and other issues, he may be transferred to another prison, Smith said.

Wetherbee was released from prison in May 2010 after serving a five-year prison sentence on charges of gross sexual imposition and pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor.

Wetherbee’s license was suspended for failing to make child support payments last year, and he shouldn’t have been driving the night of the crash, according to Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles records. He has two prior DUI convictions as well as convictions for domestic violence, theft, forgery and drugs, according to court records.

If Wetherbee is determined to have violated his parole at a hearing, which has not yet been scheduled, he could be held in prison for up to nine months, Smith said. Additional parole violations could lead to more prison time, she said.

Wetherbee, whom troopers suspect may have been intoxicated, has not been charged in connection with the crash, but the patrol reported Tuesday that it soon will turn over the results of its investigation to Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will.

Will said Tuesday he had not yet received a report from the patrol and couldn’t discuss possible charges until he’s had a chance to review the results of the investigation.

Smith said the Ohio Adult Parole Authority had initially intended to wait until any criminal charges against Wetherbee stemming from the crash had been resolved before moving ahead with the parole violation. New criminal charges take precedence over parole violations, she said.

“Because he was released from the hospital without being charged, we took him into custody,” Smith said. “Him not being charged made him available to us.”

Troopers have said Wetherbee was driving the Kia north on Route 83 when the vehicle veered off the right side of the road, crossed the center line and smashed into a southbound Honda Civic driven by Thomas Tomasheski, a corporal at the Lorain County Jail.

Tomasheski and his 13-year-old daughter, Danielle Tomasheski, remained hospitalized Tuesday for the critical injuries they sustained in the crash. Tammy Tomasheski, Thomas Tomaskeski’s wife, was killed in the crash along with the couple’s 11-year-old son Tommy Tomasheski.

The 2004 Kia Optima he was driving is registered to Nicole Balek of Elyria, according to the patrol.

Wetherbee has been on parole before and, in 2003, was returned to prison for a parole violation while on parole in a domestic violence case, according to prison officials.

Smith said a concern was raised earlier this year by an anonymous caller that Wetherbee wasn’t living at the Oberlin address he had given parole officials, but the tipster never called back with additional information that Wetherbee’s parole officer had requested.

According to the state sexual offender database, Wetherbee was registered as living on Quarry Road in New Russia Township.

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