CLEVELAND - In Ohio alone, hundreds of thousands of drunk drivers are getting arrested two, sometimes three times, for driving under the influence—and some never learn. Nearly 2,000 drivers have double-digit OVI arrests. It takes four OVI convictions before it becomes a felony and a judge can take a repeat offender's license away for life.
But as we know, it can only take a split second for a drunk driver to take a life.
Six years later, his voice half-choked with grief, Henry Andelmo does what not many can do, he said he's forgiven the man who killed his son.
"It's probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to do" said Andelmo.
In 2012, 27-year-old Mitchell Andelmo was spending a hot summer day at a Cleveland street fair, when a silver Scion drove through a barricade and mowed down a crowd of people. "I got a call from metro telling me there had been a bad accident please come as soon as possible, got there and he died about three hours later" recalled Andelmo.
The man behind the wheel, Timothy Spock, was intoxicated at the time of the crash, according to police. He also already had three prior OVI convictions.
"I lost my only son. I lost ever being a grandfather. I lost ever walking him down the aisle," he said holding back tears.
According to state records, 1.8 million Ohioans who have at least one OVI arrest. More than half make the decision to drive drunk twice. "What goes on in their mind? How can you have more than one, or two or three or more than 10 OVIs?" asked Judge Michael Cicconetti.
Judge Cicconetti didn't preside over Spock's case, but he says it's not uncommon for repeat offenders to come through his courtroom. "Repeat offenders are alcoholics most likely," said Cicconetti.
Cicconetti said the court's primary option is to get them addiction treatment, an option that allows drunk drivers to avoid jail time for early offenses.
"Sometimes jail is the easy way out. Particularly for a lesser amount of time...Treatment means more than sitting on your butt for 72 hours in a jail" said Cicconetti.
Andelmo believes it's time for the state's lawmakers to come up with better solutions. "All it takes is a split second and a family can be devastated," said Andelmo.
Timothy Spock is currently serving a 15-year sentence. He will be eligible for parole in 2024.