HURON COUNTY, Ohio — The driver responsible for the death of a 20-year-old Bowling Green State University student in Sept. is charged with multiple counts of aggravated vehicular assault, operating a vehicle while intoxicated and aggravated vehicular homicide.
On Sept. 4, Ryan Walker and three longtime friends were headed back to the BGSU campus after a Guardians game. They were about 20 minutes from campus when the Ohio State Highway Patrol said a driver tried to pass several cars on the two-lane US 6. Police said that driver hit the car head-on that the college kids were in, killing Ryan and injuring several others.
Ryan’s mom, Belinda Walker, said the pain of the past few months is indescribable.
“There’s just not a word deep enough, profound enough, terrible enough to explain to you the immensity of this loss and this pain and it will be with me, I tell you, until God calls me home,” she said.
Jan. is particularly tough, as it is not only a new year but Ryan’s birthday month.
“It was hard to say goodbye to 2022. You would think you’d want to let it go but it was the last year that my son was living and breathing so it was hard to celebrate the coming of 2023. He would’ve been 21 on Jan. 25,” she said.
But the new year does bring some relief: the driver of the crash is behind bars.
“This is going to be a year where we get what we want for Ryan and I don’t care how far we have to go for it,” said Rebekah Savage, Ryan’s sister. “It’s become a job that we are going to take on.”
Police arrested James Baker, 42, on Dec. 16. He was charged with the following:
- One count of aggravated vehicular homicide
- Five counts of aggravated vehicular assault
- Two counts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated
- Two counts of improperly handling a firearm in a motor vehicle.
His cash bond is set at $100,000.
Walker said their family will be at every court appearance, every hearing. Baker’s criminal arraignment is Friday at Sandusky County’s Court.
“I want them to know what risk the public carries if they release this man, if they reduce this bond and he makes a bail,” she said.
But she doesn’t just want to fight for Ryan, she wants to fight to change the penalties for drunk driving altogether.
“Our laws are not strict enough from the first offense,” she said. “I’m going to make sure that, not that justice is served for my son because he’s not coming back, but that safety is given to a tax-paying public.”
In Ohio, the sentence for aggravated vehicular homicide while intoxicated is anywhere from 2 to 8 years behind bars.
“We need justice for the people who go out there, just doing what they are doing on a daily basis, and they don’t get to come home,” said Savage. “We are just going to keep fighting and writing to whoever we need to write to and go out there and sharing our story.”
Walker said she won’t stop sharing Ryan’s story and their pain until something changes.
“I will be in prison for the rest of my life. I will be locked behind these bars of pain for the rest of my life and he gets out in eight, if he gets eight years,” she said.
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