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Defendant pleads 'not guilty' to vehicular manslaughter

Cary Ashby • Oct 1, 2019 at 8:50 AM

A Willard City Schools bus driver has entered a “not guilty” plea in connection with a June 28 fatal crash.

Rosalie Keesy, 47, of 611 Park St., Willard, is charged with vehicular manslaughter. If convicted of the second-degree misdemeanor, she faces up to 90 days in the Huron County Jail and a maximum fine of $750.

The charge stems from a two-vehicle accident that killed Clell L. “C.L.” Jones, 75, of 3268 Townsend Road, Greenwich. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His body was transported to Eastman Funeral Home in Greenwich.

Defense attorney Meredith A. O’Brien filed a “not guilty” plea Sept. 11 on behalf of her client, Keesy, according to Norwalk Municipal Court records. Keesy has a pre-trial hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Oct. 29.

On the afternoon of June 28, Keesy was transporting students who attended a school for migrant workers’ families. Willard conducts it for the entire area, servicing about 50 students, most of them on the elementary level. The classes are held at Willard Elementary School.

“The bus dropped off its last student in the South Central school district and was on its way home when I received the call,” Superintendent Jeff Ritz said shortly after the crash.

The accident happened about 5:46 p.m. on Ohio 162 west of Old State Road in Fairfield Township.

Jones was driving a 2004 Dodge Dakota west on Ohio 162 when he stopped in his lane and began to exit the pickup truck for an undisclosed reason. The westbound 2017 Blue Bird school bus driven by Keesy then hit the truck in the rear and Jones as he was exiting, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

The collision pushed the pickup off the north side of Ohio 162, while the bus went off the south side.

Keesy, who suffered minor cuts and abrasions, was treated at the scene by Willard EMS and later released, troopers said.

She is accused of being distracted by “other activity with an electronic device,” according to the crash report by the patrol. Norwalk Law Director Stuart O’Hara has said Keesy reportedly “looked down to turn down the radio” and drugs and alcohol weren’t factors. 

Keesy, as a press time, remains on paid administrative leave and has been “taken off the operation of any board-owned vehicle,” Ritz said in an earlier interview. The superintendent also has said he has no prior knowledge of Keesy being involved in any previous crashes during the 19 years she has been a bus driver for Willard.

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