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Driver sentenced in crash of 2 fleeing cars that killed best friend

Benny Jewett IV turned to Tyler Cross’ family and said he was sorry for the collision of two cars fleeing police that caused his best friend’s death on May 7, 2016.

“I would like to apologize to the (Cross) family for my actions,” Jewett said Tuesday in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. “I also want to say that Tyler was a big brother, a best friend, role model, idol. We did a lot of things together.”

Cross was 22.

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Jewett, 23, was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in prison for two separate cases, both involving him fleeing in a vehicle from police. Jewett also was ordered to pay $3,960 in restitution for Cross’ funeral expenses and had his driver’s license suspended for 20 years. Jewett earned 336 days of jail-time credit. He was not ordered to pay court costs.

Jewett was sentenced to five years for the May 2016 aggravated vehicular homicide and three more years for failure to comply with the order of a police officer for a January 2017 chase in which he used multiple vehicles and drove 40 mph in reverse down a residential street.

“(Cross’) family approved of the plea deal as did the police department,” Montgomery County assistant prosecutor Dan Brandt said. “It was a difficult case … the defendant was friends with the deceased victim. They were riding in the same vehicle at the time of the crash.”

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Jewett had pleaded guilty to three counts — vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer — in exchange for three counts being dismissed. The agreed-upon sentencing range was from five to eight years.

Jewett failed to stop at a stop sign at the intersection of Jerome and Ruth avenues in Dayton.

The other vehicle was driven by Steven Swain, who was driving a stolen rental car and traveling more than 70 miles per hour, according to Ben Swift, Jewett’s defense attorney. Swain has served about a year of a two-year sentence for gun and drug charges.

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Brandt said the message for the community is to not flee traffic stops. Brandt said there was a patrol in the area investigating drug sales. Drugs were found in both vehicles. The drivers did not know each other.

“These two individuals that were involved in the crash were fleeing from the police, separate police cruisers in separate directions and they just happened to collide at an intersection,” Brandt said. “So it’s very unusual circumstances.”

Swift advocated for the lower end of the sentencing range due to the loss of his friend, that Jewett was hospitalized with injuries and the speed of the other vehicle. Brandt argued for eight years in part based on a second, high-risk episode of fleeing from police.

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Blaine urged Jewett to follow through with all services and programs offered during incarceration so he could contribute and be a part of his two young children’s lives when he is release.

Jewett said his relationship with Cross was genuine and that he didn’t mean for anything bad to happen.

“He apologized to Mr. Cross’ family today, expressing his remorse,” Swift said of his client. “I know when he comes through this time, he’ll emerge as a better person.”

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