Cuyahoga Falls woman sentenced to 5 years in prison for fatal wrong-way crash
A Cuyahoga Falls woman said she has no memory of the events leading up to the eve of Thanksgiving 2019 when she drove the wrong way on the highway.
Those events include her taking opioids, going to the hospital to get help for her withdrawal and leaving before she was released.
Katy Hite then drove 100 mph the wrong way on state Route 8, speeding past several vehicles but striking a tractor-trailer and an Akron man’s car, killing him.
“I have no memory of what was going through my mind that day,” Hite said Tuesday during her virtual sentencing in Summit County Common Pleas Court. “I know what I did was wrong.”
What was Hite's sentence?
Judge Christine Croce agreed, noting that this is among three recent Summit County cases that involve a wrong-way crash on the highway. She sentenced Hite to five years in prison and permanently suspended her driver’s license — the maximum possible penalty.
Hite, 42, pleaded guilty last month to aggravated vehicular homicide, a third-degree felony, and operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, a first-degree misdemeanor. Prosecutors dropped a second count of aggravated vehicular homicide that was a second-degree felony.
Police said Hite drove north in a southbound lane Nov. 27, 2019, on state Route 8 in Cuyahoga Falls, struck a tractor-trailer and hit a car driven by Tyler Williams, 22, of Akron. Williams died of his injuries.
Some witnesses reported Williams was the wrong-way driver but investigators — and a dashboard video — found Hite was at fault.
Hite had to be extricated from her vehicle. She initially appeared in court in a wheelchair and used a walker during her sentencing. She suffered a traumatic brain injury in the crash, though she was deemed fit to stand trial.
Hite’s sentencing was emotional, with several family members of Williams, 22, sharing their memories of him and the loss they’ve suffered.
Kathleen Williams, Tyler’s grandmother, said she hopes Hite thinks of Williams on her birthday every year because he will never celebrate another birthday while she will.
“Hite made a decision on the eve of Thanksgiving 2019 that shattered the lives of everyone in our family,” she said, fighting tears. “Our hearts are broken. They can never be unbroken.”
Sierra Williams, Tyler’s sister, said her brother was a hard worker and always looked out for her and her son. She said he was funny and could “turn your crap day completely around.”
Williams read a statement from her son Austin that said, “I hope you regret what you did every day. I just want my uncle back.”
Williams’ own message to Hite was harsher: “I hate you and I will never forgive you. Not that I think you will lose sleep over that — at all.”
Sherry Williams, Tyler’s mother, said her son was “always a bright spot in everyone’s life.” She said he’ll never have the chance to fall in love or have children. She misses his voice and presence at family dinners and holidays.
“He will never be forgotten,” she said. “He will live in our hearts and memories forever.”
Assistant Prosecutor Elliot Kolkovich said Hite benefitted from the chaos and destruction she caused that night, which hampered the ability of investigators to determine how impaired she was as paramedics and then doctors struggled to save her life. Hite’s bloodwork showed the presence of benzodiazepine, opiates and oxycodone, according to court records.
Kolkovich said even the maximum sentence Hite faced doesn’t seem like enough to match what she did.
Stacy McGowan, Hite’s attorney, said Hite has no prior criminal record and has no recollection of why she drove that night. She said Hite cried when she told her what had happened.
McGowan urged Croce to consider a one-year prison sentence. She described this as a “tragedy with no winners,” with Williams dead and Hite suffering permanent injuries.
“She wishes she could go back and not get in that car,” McGowan said.
Hite apologized to Williams’ family and said she wishes she could remember what happened so she could answer the questions they still have. She said she is getting help for her drug addiction and is in counseling.
“I will do everything I can to try to repent for my actions,” she said.
Croce told the Williams family she hopes the sentencing will help give them some closure so they can focus on their fond memories of Tyler. She said Hite’s actions caused serious consequences for both herself and Williams’ family. She agreed with prosecutors that the maximum sentence was warranted.
“There has to be consequences,” she said.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at email@example.com, 330-996-3705 and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.