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Facing the consequences for a series of decisions that resulted in the death of a beloved husband and father in a hit-and-run crash in Kent this summer, an Edinburg woman was sentenced Monday to spend the next eight years in prison.
Allison E. Barton, 22, also will likely never drive again after Portage County Common Pleas Judge Laurie Pittman suspended her driver's license for life, telling the defendant she will likely do every last day of her sentence.
Assistant Portage County Prosecutor Sean Scahill told Pittman that the family of Rick Schoepe gave the go-ahead for the joint sentencing agreement reached between his office and Barton's attorney, Jonathan Sinn.
Through heaving sobs, Barton apologized to the loved ones and friends of Schoepe, 37, who died July 17 after Barton, high on heroin, struck him on North Water Street in Kent with her Jeep Liberty. She was later stopped by Brimfield police, then arrested and charged by Kent police, who investigated the incident.
Her shackled hands shaking as she read from a prepared statement, Barton apologized to the Schoepe family for taking "the life of a son, father, brother and husband."
"I know you will never forgive me and I will never forgive myself. I cannot imagine the pain, suffering, and hurt I caused your family," she said through tears. "Every day I wake up wishing I could change what has happened. I chose to feed an addiction I created. There is no one here to blame but myself."
Barton said she hopes to dedicate the rest of her life to teaching others about the dangers of drug addiction and "the horrible results that can occur."
"Never in my life did I think I would be going to prison for taking the life of another. Everyone wants to blame the drugs, but that is not true. It is the person who makes the conscious decision to take the drugs" who is responsible, she said.
Barton pleaded guilty to one count each of aggravated vehicular homicide, a second-degree felony, and leaving the scene of an accident, a third-degree felony, on Nov. 14. She faced a maximum of 11 years in prison.
The victim impact statement of Farrah Schoepe, Rick Schoepe's wife of nine years, left many courtroom observers in tears. As she approached the podium to address Pittman, Farrah Schoepe glanced briefly at Barton, then shook her head and looked away.
A 15-year employee of Star of the West Milling Co., Richard Schoepe worked seven days a week to provide for his family, Farrah Schoepe told Pittman. He was walking across the street to get change for the vending machine at the mill when he was struck and fatally injured, she said.
Through her own tears, Farrah Schoepe described how she was trying to build a life for her children, son Spencer and daughter Kyale, without her husband, who she called her "best friend."
Rick Schoepe "called me between 9 and 10 every morning every single day," she said. "Rick did not call me that morning. Instead, I got a call about him. His children never got to see him one last time. Kyale and Spencer have not only lost their father but a lifetime of future memories."
The couple's nighttime routine of tucking their children into bed together will "never be the same," Farrah Schoepe said.
Upon learning of his father's death, Spencer's first words were "'We were supposed to hang out and go fishing after work,'" his mother said.
"It was the only broken promise from a man who always came through," Farrah Schoepe told the judge. Kyale Schoepe "cannot bear" to visit her father's grave, her mother said.
"Our family calendar is full of unfinished business," and the family sentenced to "a lifetime of uncertainty" that still "pales in comparison to the emotional loss from which we can never recover," she said.
With his children soon entering middle school, Rick Schoepe had just begun to teach them the dangers of peer pressure and drugs,
"He warned them about people like Allison Barton," Farrah Schoepe said.
Sinn said his client "knows what she did was terrible."
"The day she decided to take heroin and drive is the day she will take responsibility for, for the rest of her life," Sinn said, saying his client fell into addiction after her marriage failed and she moved back home. "This is what happens when you take heroin. It tears your life apart."
With drugs like heroin and meth "rampant in our community," Pittman said it could be "any one of us sitting in Farrah's seat."
"That's frightening to me as a citizen, a sister, a daughter, an aunt," she said, telling Barton "It's frightening to me that there are people like you putting my family and friends in jeopardy."
Pittman said restitution is likely to be handled through a civil lawsuit. She said Barton's only redemption was gained through taking responsibility for her actions and helping the Schoepe family avoid an "agonizing" trial.
"The fact you stood up and took responsibility is one point in your corner," Pittman said.
Contact this reporter at 330-298-1128 or email@example.com
Facebook: Dave O'Brien, Record-Courier