LIMA — Allen County Common Plea Court Judge Jeffrey Reed was keenly aware of the emotionally charged nature of a sentencing hearing Thursday morning for a Lima man who struck and killed a pedestrian on Dixie Highway last August.
He acknowledged it more than once during the hearing and told observers that no matter what sentence he doled out, “there is just no way to satisfy everybody.”
That sentence was a maximum term of 24 months in prison and a three-year suspension of Bradley Pepple’s driver’s license on a third-degree felony count of failure to stop after a traffic accident. Reed called the case “unique.”
Pepple was indicted in October for failure to stop after an accident, a second-degree felony, along with misdemeanor counts of driving under suspension, operating a motor vehicle without a valid license and failure to reinstate a license.
He pleaded guilty in April to the amended count of failure to stop after an accident that removed language alleging Pepple knew the traffic accident resulted in the death of a person.
“A young woman is gone, yet this defendant was never charged with a homicide,” Reed said prior to sentencing. “I don’t know what was presented to the grand jury or what figured in their decision.
“I’m not going to question the grand jury. All I know is that there’s a deceased young lady, and there shouldn’t be. This is a tragedy all the way around.”
Prosecutors said Pepple, 45, struck and killed Chance Edwards as she walked along Dixie Highway on the evening of Aug. 25, 2020. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kayla Campbell requested the maximum possible sentence for the man she said was driving with a suspended license and no insurance and “had been drinking” at the time of the accident.
Defense Attorney Carroll Creighton admitted his client had consumed “three or four beers” several hours before the collision but denied Pepple was drunk.
“He didn’t intend to kill Miss Edwards. He wasn’t hammered; he was driving along Dixie Highway and struck someone who walking was in the road,” Creighton said.
Edwards’ mother, Heather Zeller, held a photo of her late daughter as she addressed the defendant.
“Do you know why she was walking on Dixie Highway that night? Because she made the right choice not to let friends who had been drinking drive her home,” Zeller said. “I pray for you. I pray for you,” she told Pepple.
Pepple, as he had throughout the case, maintained he was not aware his pickup had struck Edwards on the night in question.
“To the victim’s family, I am extremely sorry for your loss,” Pepple said. “I did not know I hit a human being that night. This has been horrible for me; I cannot imagine what it’s been like for you.”