A New Haven man has admitted to driving drunk leading up to a fiery crash that killed his girlfriend.
Jeremy J. Hoerger, 29, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Allen Superior Court to a charge of Operating While Intoxicated Causing Death, along with a sentence enhancement of Being a Habitual Controlled Substance Offender.
The crash took place along Cuba Road, just north of State Road 37, at around 10 p.m. on June 29.
Police said Hoerger was behind the wheel of an SUV that missed a curve and slammed into a tree. When emergency crews arrived, the SUV was engulfed in flames.
A passenger in the vehicle – 27-year-old Juliet Anne Taylor Schnebelt – was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to the probable cause affidavit, a driver in another vehicle told police that she was traveling north on Cuba Road when she saw the SUV’s headlights coming toward her at a high rate of speed, so she applied the brakes to avoid hitting it.
That witness and a passenger were able to help pull Hoerger from the SUV, but they were unable to rescue Schnebelt, the affidavit said.
Hoerger was hospitalized for his injuries. A blood test showed he had a BAC of .27% at the time of the crash.
In court Tuesday, Hoerger admitted to drinking to the point of being drunk just before the crash.
“I operated a vehicle while intoxicated,” Hoerger told the court Tuesday. “I had an accident that resulted in a death.”
At the time of the crash, Hoerger had specialized driving privileges after his license had been suspended for an OWI conviction. Hoerger has three previous drunken driving convictions: August 2010, November 2012 and May 2017, records show.
A plea agreement with Allen County prosecutors calls for Hoerger to serve 8 years in prison followed by 4 years probation, with one year on home detention. A judge must still accept the plea deal and decide the length of a license suspension.
Hoerger will be sentenced Oct. 26.