A Dunbridge man who fatally struck a bicyclist in Bowling Green while driving drunk has been given the maximum prison sentence allowed.
James Lindsay, 54, was transported from the jail Tuesday to the courtroom of Wood County Common Pleas Judge Joel Kuhlman.
The family of Michael Szabo, who was on the bike, spoke about how his death has affected them.
“Mike was the glue to our family, he held us together,” said Kathy Starek, his sister.
We all knew Mike was mom’s favorite. He planned to retire to provide full-time care for their mother, who could not make it to court due to health reasons, she said.
“He had a choice that day,” Starek said about Lindsay. “He had a choice three other times before this to not get behind the wheel when he was drinking.”
Lindsay had previously been found guilty of OVI twice in Wood County and at the time of the accident was out on bond for an OVI offense in Sandusky County.
Bowling Green Police Division officers responded to the crash on South Main and Pearl streets on July 1 at 2:11 p.m.
It was determined that the truck driven by Lindsay left the roadway and struck Szabo, who was on a bicycle on the sidewalk. Szabo, 60, formerly of Bowling Green, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Two witnesses told police that they saw Lindsay strike the bicyclist and then put the truck in reverse and try to leave the scene.
“It was his choice that day that took our brother away from us,” Starek said to Kuhlman. “I just want you to take that into consideration when you consider how much time he’s going to have in prison.”
Chelsea Rife also asked Kuhlman to take into consideration the effect her uncle’s death has had on the family while brother-in-law James Starek said “Mike was a selfless man. He gave to others.”
Every weekend he drove from Columbus to help his mom, James Starek said.
“This selfless man was taken by the complete polar opposite, a man of selfishness,” he said
People have to be responsible for their choices, and Lindsay being free after a third DUI is a travesty, he said.
“If he gets anything less than the maximum, that travesty will continue. I beg of the court, maximum sentence on everything. He deserves it, we deserve it,” James Starek said.
Brother Donald Szabo said a lifetime license suspension won’t matter, as Lindsay was driving on a suspended license at the time of the crash.
“This is a guy who is going to do whatever he wants, no matter what society wants, no matter what the law wants,” he said.
If Lindsay had veered left instead of right, he could have plowed into the picnic tables at Kermit’s, and there could be 15 dead people instead of one, Donald Szabo said.
“The only way society can stop him is you have to lock him up,” he said.
“Michael Szabo should have been safe on the sidewalk on his bike on a Saturday afternoon at 2 o’clock,” said Wood County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Brian Boos.
Recidivism factors “are off the charts,” he said.
“This is the only way this is going to end. When you repeatedly drive drunk … eventually a tragedy like this is unfortunately bound to happen,” Boos said.
Defense attorney Sara Roller said her client had 32 prior traffic offenses, from speeding to no seatbelt, and 19 misdemeanor offenses. He did not have any felony convictions, she said.
Lindsay had a significant period of sobriety from 2016-2023, but issues with his marriage led to him drinking again, she said.
He began attending AA while incarcerated, she said.
“He understands that he took someone’s life … and he is going to prison,” Roller said.
“I know I’ve hurt quite a few people with my actions,” Lindsay said. “I shouldn’t have been where I was that day.”
He said he can never forgive himself but hoped that someday the Szabo family may forgive him.
“I have to live with this until I die,” he said. “I’m truly sorry for what I’ve done.”
Kuhlman said there is no excuse to drink and drive, as there are multiple transportation options available.
“Your wife and your kids could have been on that sidewalk,” he said to Lindsay.
He imposed a mandatory minimum 11 years – the maximum allowed – for aggravated vehicular homicide with an indefinite term of 16.5 years as the charge falls under Reagan Tokes Act guidelines.
Kuhlman also imposed a one-year sentence for OVI, which will run concurrent to the vehicular homicide sentence; and one year for attempted failure to stop after an accident, which will run consecutive for a definite sentence of 12 years and an indefinite term of 17.5 years.
Lindsay also will have his drivers license suspended for life.
He was given credit for time served since his arrest July 1.