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Cleveland man gets 1 year in prison for 2011 fatal crash in Shalersville

By Dave O'Brien | Staff Writer Published: February 5, 2013 4:00 AM
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A Cleveland man who killed a Chagrin Falls man in a two-car crash in Shalersville in September 2011 was sentenced in Portage County Common Pleas Court on Monday to one year in prison.

Harold W. Aliff III, 33, of Cleveland, apologized to the family of Dirk E. Kruger, a 47-year-old husband, father of two and advertising executive with Crain's Cleveland Business, who died in a two-vehicle head-on collision with Aliff's pickup truck on Sept. 1, 2011.

"I'd never take anyone's life on purpose," Aliff told the Kruger family. "I'd do anything I could to take it back. I have two children. I know what you're going through. I just want to tell you I'm sorry."

Aliff said he prayed for Dirk Kruger "every night."

Judge John Enlow sentenced Aliff to the prison term, the minimum on a charge of third-degree felony aggravated vehicular homicide. Aliff pleaded guilty to the charge in October 2012, and faced a minimum of probation, or between one and three years in prison.

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Enlow also suspended Aliff's driver's license for 10 years, with the opportunity for driving privileges after three years. He also ordered Aliff to have an interlock device installed on all vehicles he drives to prevent him from driving under the influence and ordered him to report to the Portage County jail on Feb. 18 to begin serving his sentence.

According to the Ohio Highway Patrol, Aliff was northbound in a 2005 Dodge Dakota on S.R. 44 about one mile north of the Ohio Turnpike at 12:30 p.m. the day of the crash when his truck went left of center, striking Kruger's southbound BMW. Neither man was wearing a seatbelt, according to the highway patrol.

Kruger, who was not impaired, was pronounced dead at Robinson Memorial Hospital in Ravenna. Aliff also was taken to the hospital, treated and released.

Defense attorney David Lynch said Aliff admitted to smoking marijuana the night before the crash, which was the reason marijuana showed up in his bloodstream during chemical tests following the crash. The Portage County Prosecutor's Office dismissed impaired driving charges at the time of Aliff's guilty plea.

Lynch said Aliff has not driven a vehicle since the day of the crash and has been sober "for a very long time." He works full-time in his father's motorcycle shop and is "trying to get a grip on his life," Lynch said.

"It's been a battle for him and his emotions," Lynch said, calling the crash "a terrible, terrible tragedy" that "certainly" changed the lives of the Kruger family.

Assistant Portage County Prosecutor Eric Finnegan said Aliff took responsibility for his actions when he admitted driving recklessly and causing the crash.

"Mr. Aliff took someone's life," Finnegan told Enlow. However, Aliff's admission of responsibility "doesn't bring (Kruger) back to his family."

Kruger's family wrote victim impact statements that Enlow made part of the official record, but declined the offer to speak in court.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1128 or dobrien@recordpub.com

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anonymous Feb 6, 2013 4:10 PM

Well I am surprised he got any time at all. He said that he had smoked some weed and in Portage County drug use is a defense. Look at all the meth labs that put kids and whole neighbor hoods in danger and they get a slap on the wrist.

anonymous Feb 6, 2013 2:01 PM

NOTE: Dirk is spelled D-I-R-K not DURK.

anonymous Feb 6, 2013 1:19 PM

It's very unfortunate that a family has had to suffer such a great loss...As we all know, this is nothing new nor will situations as this one ever cease. How do we put a value on what punishment will suffice? Only God can judge..Matt 11:1. We as civilized and or Christians must believe and have the faith in knowing and believing that there is a greater purpose and or reason that Situations like this one and countless others have occurred. The best way to resolve our grief/pain is to move forward...It doesn't help anyone to continue to hold onto bitterness and/or anger....it will not change what has happened..From what I know, Durk was a good man who loved and valued his family-this legacy isreflected in his children. It Is because of this legacy that I believe that Durk would rather his children continue to strive to be the best they can be and be kind to others..This cannot and will not happen if bitterness,blame,etc continue..We as responsible adults need to encourage these children to the best of our abilities...This I believe is what Durk would have wanted!!

anonymous Feb 6, 2013 9:05 AM

Everybody is entitled to their opinion. However, the fact of the matter is this was an accident. Tragic indeed. But it could happen to anyone of us at anytime. Let this man pay his dues and let both families try to move on with their lives as peacefully as they possibly can. Derogatory comments only reflect the type of character you possess. May God bless both these families in their time of suffering.

anonymous Feb 5, 2013 8:24 PM

I took the last posters advice and read thecourt dockets. Mr. Aliff was indicted on Feb 16 with the following. Aggravated Vehicular Homicide (2cts);Operating Vehicle While Intoxicated (2cts); Left of Center. Full dockets with photos available on the website under "Dockets." If you read through everything and go back to prior articles on the case it appears that he was able to make a deal and several charges reduced in return for his admidmission of guilt. Court dockets are silly to debate. Lets not distract the readers from truthful documents. I agree with an earlier poster. He was impaired and I am sure he is sorry for what has happened.

anonymous Feb 5, 2013 5:40 PM

Hey go read the reports on the Portage County Clerk of Courts website. Mr. Aliff had no alochol in his system. Please try and read before you write hurtful things to everbody. This was a accident and everyone in both familys are hurting.

anonymous Feb 5, 2013 3:13 PM

ratdogtommy I re-read the article and you are right. It refers to Mr. Aliff being sober since the accident, I assumed alcohol, same crime, OVI. Same sentence. Nobody is questioning the judges honor or his fairness, I assume he is a fair and honorable man, or he wouldn't be sitting on the bench. I just don't understand some of the deals that are made at the courthouse. Maybe the family requested the minimum sentence.. Peace to the Kruger family.

anonymous Feb 5, 2013 12:28 PM

ratdogtommy, the bottom line was Mr. Aliff was impaired. He drank,he smoked weed, and caused an accident. One man dead, one going to jail. The facts, end of story. Lets not debate seatbelt issues if you did not survey the crash scene. The focus of comments here should be on the family of the victim and thoughts of how Dirk Kruger's widow and 2 sons will navigate their way without their dad. Will he get to see his proud senior graduate this spring?.... Nope. Will Mr. Aliff get to enjoy more of his 16 mos of freedom the system stalled for since the crash.... Nope. There are no winners and no sides to take. A family destroyed is the real saddness. All perfectly preventable had one not made a choice to get behind the wheel of their vehicle impaired. In 6 mos the law allows Mr. Aliff a hearing to petition get out of jail early. The readers here and the focus should be to keep impaired people off the roadways. Rather than debate here with ridiculous "what if's" and seatbelt usage,energy should be to attend the hearing when it rolls around in 6 mos and make a voice be heard. Keep impaired folks off the roadways.

anonymous Feb 5, 2013 12:20 PM

I think this was a slap on the wrist. He should have gotten three years plus - It is a shame when a person can kill another while under the influence and get one year for murder - wake up folks

anonymous Feb 5, 2013 11:36 AM

Redleg6 read the article again. If he was intoxicated on alcohol at the time of crash the Courier almost certainly would have reported a BAC. Sounds to me like he smoked some pot the night before. Would the other man have lived had he been wearing seat belts? Tragic accident, very sad. Judge Enlow is a fair and honorable Judge and was well within the parameters of the Ohio Revised Code.

anonymous Feb 5, 2013 8:37 AM

Assistant Portage County Prosecutor Eric Finnegan said "Aliff took responsibility for his actions when he admitted driving recklessly and causing the crash". He was DRUNK! He was driving DRUNK! He didn't know he was driving recklessly, because he was DRUNK! What a travesty. A mans life taken, a husband, father killed dead on the highway, by a DRUNK! Our Prosecutor makes a deal. Our esteemed Judge goes along with the deal. My question, why make a deal at all? A life is only worth 1 year in prison? Where is the outrage from MADD? If the Kruger family is satisfied with the sentence, fine, so be it. I know they are a Christian family, and I am sure they put everything in our Creators hands. However, this case is an example of the wheeling and dealing @ The Portage County Discount House of Justice. I'm shocked Mr. Aliff didn't get one of those sweet "In Lieu of Conviction" deals where you work a program. Come on folks where is the OUTRAGE!