John J. Stephenson, of the 1100 block of Branstrator Road, was sentenced Friday in Allen Superior Court to serve eight years of a 12-year prison sentence, with four years on probation, for causing death while operating a motor vehicle with an alcohol concentration greater than .15 percent, a Level 4 felony. His driver’s license also is suspended for five years.
Four related charges of operating while intoxicated were dismissed.
Stephenson pleaded guilty last month, admitting he was driving an off-road vehicle with his passenger, 21-year-old Alex M. “Tank” Tetzloff of Sandusky, Ohio, at about 2 a.m. Sept. 23 in the 8800 block of Kress Road, south of Airport Expressway near Branstrator Road, when the John Deere Gator veered off the southwest Allen County road and flipped, killing Tetzloff, according to the probable-cause affidavit.
Police said the vehicle sped into a ditch before it flipped.
Tetzloff, who died of blunt-force trauma due to the crash, was the 25th traffic fatality in Fort Wayne and Allen County in 2016. Stephenson was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. They were not wearing helmets, but wore seatbelts, police reported.
Becky Tetzloff addressed the court on Friday, saying, “We are frozen in time … because you decided to drink, drive and kill again.”
Stephenson faced similar charges and received prison time after he struck a family’s station wagon Oct. 27, 1994 on Winchester Road near Bluffton Road, resulting in the Oct. 31 death of 6-year-old Daniel Frost. His parents, Walter and Ellen Frost, as well as their 12-year-old son, Matthew, were injured in the accident.
In that accident, Frost had come to a stop near the intersection when Stephenson’s westbound truck struck the vehicle from behind. Stephenson then turned around and sped off in the opposite direction. A passer-by saw the accident and followed the truck. The passer-by called police on his car phone and gave a description of the truck and the direction in which it was heading. The passer-by continued to follow Stephenson after he abandoned the truck and fled on foot. Police placed him under arrest.
In March 1995, Stephenson was sentenced to serve six years of an eight-year sentence for operating a vehicle while intoxicated, causing a death, with the remaining two years to be served on probation, and two years of probation for failure to stop after an accident resulting in injury or death, that was served consecutively. He was ordered to take part in an alcohol abuse deterrent program.
Stephenson has prior convictions for OWI and multiple traffic violations, although he said Friday he had successfully abstained from drinking for 7 1/2 years.
Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck ordered Stephenson to pay restitution in the amount of $13,552.05 to the Tetzloff family for funeral expenses.