A Ravenna woman pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to charges stemming from a single-vehicle crash that killed two of her daughters and another girl and injured other passengers.
Often sounding emotional, 42-year-old Julianne M. Shead said “guilty” 10 times as Judge Laurie Pittman asked her for her plea to each of seven felony and three misdemeanor counts in Portage County Court of Common Pleas.
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The charges include three counts of first-degree felony aggravated vehicular homicide, four counts of second-degree felony aggravated vehicular assault, and single counts of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and driving under suspension, both first-degree misdemeanors, and minor misdemeanor reckless operation.
“We believe the plea is fair,” Candace Knox, one of Shead’s two attorneys told Pittman prior to the pleas.
Pittman then accepted the guilty pleas and found Shead guilty of each count.
“I an convinced the defendant is entering into this plea today knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily,” said Pittman.
After Prosecutor Connie Lewandowski confirmed to Pittman that the prosecutor’s office had moved to have 10 other counts in a grand jury indictment and a supplemental indictment dismissed as part of “plea negotiations” with the defense, Pittman dismissed those charges. They include three counts of second-degree felony aggravated vehicular homicide, four counts of third-degree felony vehicular assault and single counts of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, operating a vehicle under the influence of meth, both first-degree misdemeanors, and minor misdemeanor failure to control.
Shead was driving a 2015 Chevrolet Silverado when she lost control at a high rate of speed at a curve on Peck Road in Shalersville during the afternoon of Dec. 13, 2020, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The truck hit a tree on the east side of the road, with the force of the crash causing severe structural damage to the truck. Six of the occupants were ejected.
Marlana J. Mullin, 22, Christine Shead, 12 — both Shead’s daughters — and Evey Montecalvo, 13, were killed. Shead’s now 16-year-old twin sons, Garret and Austin Shead, Brandon Krotzer, now 17, and Shead’s nephew Matthieu Glass, now 21, were all injured, as was Shead.
Shead also repeatedly said “yes” or “no,” often followed by “your honor” when Pittman asked her a series of questions to ensure she understood her constitutional rights, the potential consequences of her pleas, and that she was willingly pleading and waiving her rights, but Shead made no statements during the approximately 20-minute plea hearing.
“We have had an opportunity to talk to our client in reference to what she is getting herself into today,” Jonathan Sinn, Shead’s other attorney, told Pittman. “It’s always been about taking responsibility, that never has been an issue.”
Sinn and Knox have both said they dispute there was evidence that Shead was using meth the day of the crash, but that they admit to the alcohol use. During Friday’s hearing, Sinn said Shead “chose to drive” with a 0.105% blood alcohol content level, which is above the 0.08% legal limit.
“You can’t call that an accident, you have to call that something else, you have to call it a tragedy,” said Sinn. “There’s a lot of tragedy here and today, we’re taking responsibility for what Julianne did.”
Sinn added that Shead was “reckless.”
“Our position has always been that she’s guilty,” he said.
Pittman granted Lewandowski’s request that the court’s adult probation department conduct a pre-sentencing investigation, which would include victim impact statements. Pittman said she believes sentencing will likely not be until late September or early October.
Sinn said he wants the sentence to be “fair” and the defense will be preparing information to provide context into what was going on in Shead’s life.
“What caused this tragedy on top of her poor choices,” he said.
Pittman also ordered the continuation of the $1.5-million bond Shead has been held on in Portage County Jail.
The hearing was the first of two plea hearings for Shead on Wednesday. In an unrelated case, Shead later pleaded guilty to first-degree misdemeanor operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol in Portage County Municipal Court in Ravenna. The case was filed after Shead was stopped on Peck Road at about 5:20 p.m. on Sept. 3, 2020, according to a ticket the Portage County Sheriff’s Office filed in court. Shead’s BAC level measured at 0.172%, more than double the legal limit.
Acting Judge James Silver sentenced Shead to 180 days in jail, all but three of which were suspended. The sentence is to run at the same time as whatever sentence she receives in the common pleas case. Silver also fined Shead $375, to be paid within 360 days.
Shead had been under an administrative driver’s license suspension while that case was pending, but it was terminated Wednesday.
Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.