LIMA — Seldom in a criminal court case does the mother of a victim embrace the defendant and his family. That scenario is even less common, almost unheard of, when a life is lost.
But with emotions running at a fever pitch Monday, the mother of Brandon Matos — a 23-year-old Lima man who lost his life in a 2017 traffic accident — embraced the family of Cody Rollins, who had pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to a traffic crash that led to her son’s death, in the midst of a sentencing hearing.
Rollins, a former Lima police officer, was sentenced Monday in Allen County Common Pleas Court to 180 days in jail — with 150 days suspended — and one year of probation in connection with the Aug. 7, 2017 traffic accident that claimed the life of Matos. Originally charged by an Allen County grand jury with a third-degree felony count of involuntary manslaughter, Rollins pleaded guilty in October to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of vehicular homicide for his role in Matos’ death.
Judge David Cheney also ordered Rollins to pay $3,000 in restitution to Matos’ family and ordered the defendant’s driver’s license suspended for two years.
Police say Rollins, now 23, was operating his 2017 Hyundai Sonata westbound on West Elm Street when he attempted a left turn onto Homestead Drive. A motorcycle operated by Matos, which was headed eastbound on West Elm Street, struck Rollins’ vehicle. Matos was thrown from the vehicle into the Ottawa River, where he was rescued by passersby. He was taken to St. Rita’s Medical Center with life-threatening injuries and died three days later at Cleveland University Hospital.
Rollins’ attorney, submitted evidence generated by an independent crash re-constructionist that alleged the motorcycle Matos was operating was traveling at speeds of between 100-110 miles per hour at the time of the crash. The report concluded there was no degree of recklessness on Rollins’ part that contributed to Matos’ death.
Prior to the sentencing, Nilsa Chapman, the mother of Brandon Matos, gave an emotional statement to the court surrounding the loss of her son. Turning to Rollins, she said, “Cody, I know you didn’t set out that day to hurt anyone. My faith has gotten me through this as I ask God to help me forgive you. We both have to live with this. I do forgive you.”
Rollins, who fought back tears throughout the hearing, told Chapman, “I’d like to say I’m sorry. I thank you for saying that you know this wasn’t on purpose.”
Chapman and Rollins’ parents joined in a tearful embrace in the courtroom as the hearing was briefly halted. Following the sentence Chapman and the defendant also hugged.
Rollins was terminated from the police force on March 20 of this year. He is to report to the Allen County jail on Jan. 2 to begin serving his 30-day sentence.
Reach J Swygart at 567-242-0464.