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4-year prison term for motorist who killed Porter County jogger

Updated: January 2, 2013 6:11AM



VALPARAISO — A night of partying that led to an accident that killed the brother-in-law of Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas drew a four-year prison sentence Friday for a Union Township man.

Joseph R. Ruwaldt, 20, was sentenced by Porter Superior Court Judge William Alexa for Class C felony operating a motor vehicle with a controlled substance or its metabolite in the person’s blood, causing the death of another person.

Ruwaldt pleaded guilty to that charge on July 27, and the state dropped two Class C felonies and five misdemeanors against him. Ruwaldt’s sentence includes no probation.

He hit R. Garry Bradley, 62, on July 31, 2011, while Bradley was jogging along County Road 100N.

Court records state that Ruwaldt had been smoking marijuana with a friend and fell asleep about 2 a.m. before leaving at 7 a.m.

After turning off County Road 500W and going east on County Road 100N, Ruwaldt fell asleep and went up into yards in a black GMC pickup before returning to the road and hitting Bradley on the way.

Experts estimate he was traveling 65 mph in a 35 mph zone when his truck veered off the north side of the road and was doing 52 mph when he hit Bradley and carried him on the hood until County Road 350W.

Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Bennett said in arguments that Ruwaldt “was committed to smoking marijuana on a daily basis, starting three years before the incident.”

Although tests showed 8.82 nanograms per liter of marijuana metabolites in Ruwaldt’s blood, he passed every sobriety test police gave him, and the level wasn’t high enough under Indiana law to qualify as intoxicated, defense attorney John Vouga argued.

Vouga said Ruwaldt took responsibility at the accident, calling 911 and not driving off, and police described him as concerned and visibly shaken.

Ruwaldt was originally out on bail bond after the accident, but Alexa revoked that Jan. 27 because Ruwaldt had been smoking synthetic marijuana.

Alexa rejected the possibility of putting Ruwaldt on home detention or intensive probation, partly on the basis of the synthetic marijuana use and partly because the death happened less than six months after Ruwaldt had a juvenile incident removed from his record because he participated in a program.

“It wouldn’t work,” Alexa said.

Ruwaldt has already served 243 days in Porter County Jail, which with good-time credit would be doubled when applied to his prison sentence.

Alexa also suspended Ruwalt’s driver’s license for three years, going back retroactively to the date of the accident.

Vouga said his client would not appeal the sentence.



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