Chesterton Tribune



Man driving under the influence of heroin gets 15 years in fatal OWI crash

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A LaPorte man who was driving under the influence of heroin when he rear-ended another vehicle on I-94 near Chesterton, killing a woman, was sentenced to 15 years in the Indiana Department of Correction (DOC).

Jonathan E. Sanchez, 33, was originally charged with operating while intoxicated with a controlled substance or its metabolite in his blood-causing death, a Class B felony punishable by a term of six to 20 years.

On Monday, Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford sentenced Sanchez to the advisory term of 10 years, then added 10 more years for aggravating circumstances, then suspended five years, for an effective sentence of 15 years.

Bradford also ordered Sanchez to pay restitution to the victim’s family of $11,000.

According to police, at 4:32 p.m. Oct. 8, 2011, Sanchez was eastbound on I-94 at the 30.5 mile marker--approximately three miles west of the Michigan City exit--when he looked down to grab his cell phone.

When Sanchez looked up again, he found that traffic was slowing and he attempted to brake but lost control of his Ford Ranger, went left, and rear ended a minivan in which Jaya C. Patel of Canton, Mich., was a rear seat passenger. Patel was pronounced dead at the scene after being extricated by Chesterton firefighters.

In his probable cause affidavit, Det. Mike Bailey of the Indiana State Police stated that several witnesses advised that the driver of a Ford Ranger later identified as the one Sanchez was driving “was weaving in and out of several lanes of traffic without using a turn signal, nearly striking three vehicles.” Several witnesses also advised that they observed one of the two male subjects in the Ford Ranger toss “a small object into the tall weeds to the south side of the roadway” after the crash, Bailey stated.

A Chesterton firefighter later searched the area by the side of the road and recovered a syringe which Sanchez subsequently admitted was his, Bailey stated.

Sanchez’s passenger at the time of the crash later gave Bailey this account. “He said that Jonathan Sanchez picked him up in Valparaiso and was giving him a ride,” Bailey stated. “He also said that he and Jonathan used heroin many times together. When Jonathan picked him up, Jonathan said to him, ‘I’m not sick any more. I got some stuff.’ He said he took this to mean that he had heroin. He also said that based on how Jonathan was acting he believed him to be high on heroin at the time he was driving.”

In a blood test conducted after the crash, Sanchez tested positive for morphine with a level of 214 ng/ml serum, Bailey stated.



Posted 7/16/2013





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