October 31, 2014

Elyria
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Man indicted in accident that killed Tomasheski family members

ELYRIA — Gerald Wetherbee Jr. has been indicted on aggravated vehicular homicide and other charges for the June car crash that killed two people and left two others fighting for their lives.

Wetherbee

Wetherbee, 35, also is charged with aggravated vehicular assault, vehicular assault, driving under suspension and DUI for the June 11 crash on state Route 83 in Grafton that killed Tammy Tomasheski and her 11-year-old son, Tommy Tomasheski.

Injured in the crash were Tom Tomasheski and his daughter, Danielle Tomasheski, who both had lengthy hospital stays. They have since been released but continue to recover from their injuries.

Tom Tomasheski largely declined to comment on the indictment.

“We will let the legal system take its course,” he said Wednesday in a message to The Chronicle-Telegram.

According to the Ohio Highway Patrol, Wetherbee was driving a borrowed Kia Optima when he veered left of center and smashed into the Honda Civic being driven by Tom Tomasheski, who is a corporal at the Lorain County Jail.

Tests showed that Wetherbee, whose driver’s license was suspended, had a blood alcohol level of 0.209, more than twice the legal driving limit of 0.08. Wetherbee also was hospitalized after the crash but was released within a week.

He didn’t stay free for long. The Ohio Adult Parole Authority, which later determined that his role in the crash violated the terms of his parole, arrested him a few days after his release from the hospital. Wetherbee, who was on parole after serving five years in prison on sex charges, was ordered held for eight months for the violation.

Wetherbee, who has an extensive record, including prior convictions for DUI, domestic violence and theft, was brought back to the Lorain County Jail on Tuesday and is scheduled to be arraigned today.

Lt. Jack Hammond, the jail’s administrator, said Wetherbee is being held away from the other prisoners at the jail because of concerns for his safety. Some inmates, many of whom Hammond said respected Tom Tomasheski, had made comments that they wanted to hurt Wetherbee because of the crash.

Hammond also said that he fears Wetherbee may make up stories about being mistreated by jail staff, which is why Wetherbee is being kept under constant electronic monitoring in his private cell. He said he has no concerns about Wetherbee having a problem with jail workers.

“I don’t expect any issues with him out here,” Hammond said.

County Prosecutor Dennis Will said his office will handle the case against Wetherbee like any other.

“He’s being treated like everybody else,” Will said.

But Will also said that the nature of the charges means that his office will likely push for a harsh punishment if Wetherbee is convicted.

“Clearly it’s something that put a lot of people in jeopardy,” Will said.

Wetherbee also was indicted on unrelated charges of tampering with records and failure to register a change of address.

As a convicted sex offender, Wetherbee is required to tell the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office where he lives and works. But Will said a separate investigation determined that while Wetherbee claimed to be living with his parents in the Oberlin area, he was actually living with his girlfriend, 37-year-old Nicole Balek, in Elyria.

Will said Wetherbee never told deputies that he moved and even lied about it when he filled out paperwork.

Balek, who owns the Optima Wetherbee was driving when the crash occurred, has been charged with wrongful entrustment in Elyria Municipal Court because she allegedly allowed him to drive the car when she knew he was intoxicated.

Managing Editor Julie Wallace contributed to this story. Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.