Champaign Co. man pleads guilty in crash that killed Graham student

A Champaign County man, who authorities suspected of being impaired when he crashed and killed a Graham High School student, pleaded guilty to charges in connection with her death.

Dylan Lambert pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide and aggravated vehicular assault in Champaign County Common Pleas Court. He is due in court on July 23 for a sentencing hearing.

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Sara Hess was killed Nov. 3. A crash report obtained by the Springfield News-Sun says 17-year-old Gabe Wier, who was driving a 2006 Accord that Hess was in, was attempting to make a left hand turn off of Ohio 235 when his car was rear-ended by a 1997 Honda Civic driven by Lambert.

“(Lambert) struck (Wier) in the right rear, forcing (Wier) off the roadway to the left,” the report says. “(Wier) struck a ditch, which caused the vehicle to roll over and came to a final rest on its tires.”

The report says Lambert was trying to pass the Accord at the time of the crash and allegedly crossed a double yellow line to do so. It also says Champaign County deputies allegedly suspect Lambert, 27, of being under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash.

The crash report says Lambert tested at a .232 level of alcohol, which is almost three times the legal limit for driving.

Lambert’s attorney Nathan Stuckey wasn’t immediately available for comment and Champaign County Prosecutor Kevin Talebi declined to comment until after sentencing.

Court documents obtained by the Springfield News-Sun show Lambert pleaded guilty on June 6. He was facing 10 charges in connection with the accident including operating motor vehicle under influence of alcohol, aggravated vehicular homicide and vehicular assault, according to court records.

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“I understand the nature of these charges and the possible defenses I might have,” a plea of guilty agreement entry that Lambert signed says. “I am satisfied with my attorney’s advice and competence. I am not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. No threats have been made to me. No promises have been made to me by anyone except as part of this plea agreement stated entirely as follows.”

As part of the agreement, the state agreed to dismiss eight charges against Lambert and recommended a pre-sentence investigation report that will be conducted before the sentencing date.

“The state will not request a specific term of incarceration at sentencing,” the agreement says. “However, the parties agree the state is permitted to discuss aggravating factors including factors that may support consecutive sentences, the state may also discuss information provided by the victims and any other pertinent facts.”

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Sara’s death hit the Graham community hard, Graham Superintendent Kirk Koennecke said, and will have a lasting impact on the school.

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