Preble County, Ohio Prosecutor's OfficeMartin P. Votel, Prosecuting Attorney

Man Sentenced in Traffic Death of Friend

Published on January 25th, 2019


Kenneth Cress, age 27 of Fairhaven, has been sent to prison for the December 14, 2017 death of James Combs.

On January 24, 2019, Judge Stephen R. Bruns of the Preble County Court of Common Pleas sentenced Kenneth Cress of Fairhaven to one year in the custody of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Cress had previously pled guilty to one count “Aggravated Vehicular Homicide”, (R.C. 2903.06(A)(2)(a)) a felony of the third carrying a possible maximum sentence of five years in state custody. The State of Ohio was represented at the hearing by Prosecuting Attorney Martin P. Votel and the defendant was represented by attorney Kirsten Knight.

On December 14, 2017 at approximately 8:00 A.M., a passer-by noticed a badly damaged vehicle in a grouping of trees about 195 feet off of Kingrey Road at the intersection of Fairhaven College-Corner Rd. The defendant had been driving southbound on Fairhaven College-Corner Rd. at a high rate of speed and failed to obey the stop sign at the intersection. The vehicle left the pavement and struck a tree before coming to rest. Passenger James Combs of Edgartown, Massachusetts, age 26, was killed in the crash.

The time of the crash is unknown, but likely occurred several hours before the vehicle was spotted by the motorist. The defendant was taken by Careflight to Kettering Medical Center and a blood sample was taken at 9:20 A.M. This sample, taken an unknown number of hours after the crash, rendered a blood alcohol content of .044 grams %, well under the legal limit. Consultations with forensic experts confirmed that the defendant’s state of intoxication at the time of wreck could not be known. The criminal charge in the case alleged that the defendant had operated the vehicle recklessly and that this reckless operation had caused the death of Mr. Combs. Factors supporting the allegation of recklessness include the use of alcohol at any level, the time of day, the location of the crash, and the excessive speed of operation.

The victim’s mother and grandmother both addressed the court at sentencing, explaining to the court the impact the loss of their loved one has had upon their lives.

PROSECUTING ATTORNEY MARTIN P. VOTEL: The pointless loss of life is always heart-breaking – always tragic. Though nothing can resurrect the victim, it is the sincere hope of the State of Ohio that the Court’s sentence will help bring closure to the victim’s family and help serve notice on all motorists there is no place for alcohol, drugs, excessive speed, or cell phones when behind the wheel.