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Driver In Court

October 18, 2011

Staff photo/Mike Burkholder: Jinghao Xu, 50, of Hamilton, sits at a table waiting for his hearing on Monday afternoon in Mercer County Municipal Court.

CELINA — A Korean man accused of causing a collision that took the life of a 3-year-old Minster girl made his initial appearance in court on Monday.

Flanked by a translator, Jinghao Xu, 50, of Hamilton, appeared in Mercer County Municipal Court on a charge of vehicular manslaughter, a fourth-degree felony. The charge stems from a Saturday morning collision at the intersection of Ohio 119 and U.S. 127 in Granville Township. Aubrey L. Bruns, 3, of Minster, died from injuries suffered in the collision.

Mercer County Municipal Court Judge James Scheer ordered Xu held on a $250,000 bond with a 10 percent cash provision on the charge. Scheer also appointed a public defender to serve as Xu’s defense counsel.

The hearing, which typically is routine, took a little longer than normal because Xu speaks Korean and communicated through a translator. Officials were able to locate a student from the Lake Campus to serve as Xu’s translator during the hearing.

Further prosecution in the case must be done in Mercer County Common Pleas Court because the charge is a felony. A case can make it into Common Pleas Court through a grand jury indictment or if a judge binds the case over following a preliminary hearing.

During his address to Xu, Scheer noted he believed there was no indication drugs or alcohol played a role in the collision. Through his translator, Xu expressed sympathy regarding the collision.

“He feels very bad,” Xu’s translator said.

According to a crash report from the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, Xu was driving a 2006 Chevrolet Express Van westbound on Ohio 119. He reportedly stopped at the stop sign and entered the intersection. Upon entering the intersection, the van was struck by a northbound 2002 Chevrolet Prism driven by Hillary Hartings, 22, 1489 Voskuhl Road, Maria Stein.

Conner Bruns, 6, of Amsterdam Road, Minster, was in the front passenger seat of the Prism and Keaton Bruns, 9, same address, was in the rear passenger seat.  Both were transported to Mercer Health in Coldwater, then transferred to Children’s Hospital. Hartings and Xu were both treated and released at Mercer Health.

After the crash, law enforcement officials checked into Xu’s immigration status because he told them he was not a U.S. citizen and his Illinois operator’s license had reportedly been canceled.

If convicted on the charge as it now stands, Xu could face a maximum of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

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