Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 - 9:30 p.m.: A plea agreement has been reached in the aggravated vehicular homicide case against Cory Jackson of Bellville.
After a day of testimony from an accident reconstruction engineer and eight days of sometimes tumultuous cross examination, the trial is over. Defense attorneys, prosecutors, and members of both the Nauman and Jackson families met after court and worked out a deal, agreeing to a guilty plea to a reduced charge of vehicular homicide (recklessly causing the death of), a third degree felony, and a first degree misdemeanor charge of D.U.I.
Morrow County Asst. Prosecutor David Homer has requested a sentence of four years in a penal institution and a period of probation after release. Defense Attorney Larry Zuckerman agreed to the amended charges and Cory Jackson acknowledged he was changing his plea to guilty on both counts.
In addition to incarceration and post community control, Jackson may lose his driving privileges for three years or more.
Before this evening, Jackson, 46, faced charges of aggravated vehicular homicide, a felony of the second degree, and two DUI charges. A major point in question during the trial was which vehicle crossed the centerline, causing the collision. Photos of the crash scene, diagrams of the tire marks and area of impact, and a number of exhibits were displayed and discussed before the jury. Most days, family and supporters of both families filled the visitors’ section to standing room only.
Morrow County Common Pleas Court Judge Howard Hall accepted the amended plea agreement and set a sentencing date for April 18, 2014 at 9 a.m.
Members of the Nauman family and Jackson family attended the evening hearing, along with members of the media. The session was an emotional one for both families. After the hearing adjourned at 6:47 p.m., tears flowed on both sides of the courtroom and members of the Nauman family asked Cory Jackson to join them for a moment.
“We’re not a vindictive family,” they cried as they embraced him. “You would have loved our dad. He’s already forgiven you.”
Jackson wept and responded, “I know I would have. I’m sorry…. thank you.”
“We don’t want to be a vindictive family,” Pat Nauman told interviewers. “We are a loving family and would want to make a win for the Lord above, and this is one.”
When asked why they agreed to this plea deal, daughter Kim Mast explained, “It’s been almost two and a half years, and our family’s been through enough. I am sure the Jackson family has been through enough, and Cory was willing to admit guilt, and we are willing to accept that. It is what our family wanted and we had come to that conclusion. We wish them peace, and we wish peace within our family, my mom’s grandchildren, our children and within the community. We are a Christian family; we can forgive and we just are glad the incident is done. We love you, Dad.”
“We want justice done,” said Tracy Nauman, “and what we have told everybody is if he [Jackson] would just ‘man up’ and admit his guilt… and he did today. That is all I can ask. The day that me and my brother went in with my dad when he passed away in the hospital, I went and touched my father and it come through him to forgive him, and it’s been through me ever since.”
“It starts right now,” son Roger Nauman added. “With him admitting his guilt, that helped our family a lot. We will always remember our dad. It is going to be on our minds for the rest of our lives, but we can’t start out hating. There is some point and time we got to start healing, and we are just tired and we want to start the healing process. That is what my dad would want. He lived long enough to talk to each one of us before he passed away. He was a strong man and he pulled through that long and I thank God for that, and I thank God that mom is still standing here today.”
“We have been trying for many months, we and the state, to resolve this and we were not able to come to any resolution,” said Defense Attorney Zuckerman. “After nine days of trial, they had an opportunity to see our defenses, [and] we had an opportunity to see their evidence, and we were able to come to a resolution. Clearly, it was an emotional decision that [Jackson] made. He is extremely remorseful for what’s happened. I think that he decided that it was the right decision.”
Healing begins now for everyone involved.
“The philosophy in our family is bitter seeds can only result in bitter findings, so we pray that we just put this down and that we glorify our father in heaven and glorify our earthly father,” said Kim. “We feel that Cory is sincere with his guilt that he said. We wish their family a new start and our family a new start, and our father has given us a great foundation for that. We will never forget him.”
“There are times through this process that I had to be strong and a lot of people would ask me, how can you be so strong?” said Pat Nauman. “There is only one answer to that. I had the good Lord with me. I guess maybe that was the starting process too. We are going to be alright. We are a good family and this is a good community. The people have been behind us [and] are wonderful. We thank them so much for it.”
“We are glad it’s over,” Kim said. “We feel the judge was fair. The jurors that we have had to deal with was fair, Dave and Tom - the prosecutors - we feel that they helped guide us through this process. Our father is looking down on us. He was a real ornery man (laughter). He kept us going the whole time. We will be ok.”
Cory Jackson expressed his sentiments as well.
“I’m deeply sorry to Patricia Nauman and her family, kids, grandkids and friends,” he said after the hearing. “Her family is a very wonderful family. I was glad to hug them in the end. God has a plan for all of us, and we are not to ask why.”