Family members of Scott Hollifield weren’t happy when the man who struck him and drove away — leaving him with fatal injuries — only got three years in prison.

They weren’t happy when Carl Sapper, the Barberton man who hit Hollifield, was let out of prison early and put into a yearlong re-entry program.

And, now, they aren’t happy that Sapper, who hasn’t yet completed the re-entry program, has again been charged with a hit-skip crash.

This time, Sapper is accused of backing into a neighbor’s parked car in Barberton, causing damage but not hurting anyone.

That fact, though, doesn’t diminish the outrage of Hollifield’s family, especially because Sapper has a suspended driver’s license — and this is his third hit-skip charge.

“His actions are showing he’s not taking advantage of that second chance,” Tom McCarthy, Hollifield's uncle, said in a recent interview at his Broadview Heights home. “He’s done the exact opposite.”

Sapper, 41, pleaded not guilty Aug. 16 in Barberton Municipal Court to the charges in his latest case, which include misdemeanor counts of hit-skip, driving under suspension and improper backing.

Hollifield’s family and friends hope these latest charges will land Sapper back in prison. They also want to see Ohio adopt a stiffer penalty for hit-and-run crashes involving serious or fatal injuries.

The maximum penalty for felony hit-skip under current law is three years. A hit-skip that doesn’t cause serious injury or property damage is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail.

Christine McCarthy, Hollifield’s mother, has written to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, urging him to examine this issue. She plans to reach out to others.

“I’m not done,” said McCarthy, who lives in Painesville. “I’ve only just begun.”

 

Fatal hit-skip

Sapper struck Hollifield about 11 p.m. Nov. 25, 2016, as Hollifield walked on North Van Buren Avenue in Barberton.

Hollifield, 27, suffered multiple broken bones and severe head injuries, and later died.

Investigators connected Sapper to the crash based on repairs to his vehicle.

Sapper pleaded guilty in April 2017 to hit-skip, a third-degree felony. Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands sentenced him in June 2017 to three years in prison and suspended his driver’s license for three years.

Sapper applied for an early release in December 2018. Christine McCarthy encouraged her son’s family and friends, including his fellow Army National Guard soldiers, to write to Rowlands and urge her to keep Sapper behind bars.

Rowlands, though, opted in March to grant Sapper’s early-release request and put him into her re-entry program. She said he would be eligible for an early release from the parole board in late October and the supervision in her re-entry program would be more intensive than that of the parole board.

The judge said Sapper would face sanctions if he violated the program’s rules, including potentially returning to prison. The rules included that Sapper abide by all state, federal and local laws.

John Hollifield, Scott’s father, said during the early-release hearing that he was concerned people would continue to flee from crash scenes if they saw they wouldn’t get significant sentences.

“They are going to run,” he said.

 

New hit-skip case

In Sapper’s latest case, he is accused of backing into his neighbor’s car that was parked on East Cassell Avenue in Barberton on July 29.

The neighbor said the back passenger door on the driver’s side was broken out, causing damage to the door and frame.

The neighbor initially told police his neighbor across the street has a large truck but said he didn’t know if the truck caused the damage or if it was another passerby. He later told police he didn’t see his vehicle get hit but heard a loud noise and saw a dump truck driving away with Sapper at the wheel, according to a police report.

A Barberton officer said the dump truck’s high rear bumper is at the same level as the damage to the man’s vehicle, according to the report.

Sapper is next due in court for a pretrial hearing Sept. 23.

Joe Kodish, the head of the public defender’s office, declined to comment because his office just got Sapper’s case.

“We’ll represent him the best we can,” Kodish said.

 

Potential sanctions

After Sapper’s new charges were filed, he received an immediate sanction from Rowlands.

Rowlands ordered Sapper first confined to the Summit County Jail and then to an Oriana House halfway house for three weeks for failing to report new contact with police, a requirement of the re-entry program. He is under restriction at the halfway house, which means he isn’t permitted to leave without court approval or a medical emergency.

Rowlands said she’ll be watching to see what happens in Sapper’s new case.

“Once the Barberton case has concluded, I will impose an appropriate sanction if one is necessitated by the outcome,” she said.

If Sapper is convicted, the Hollifield family hopes any sanction will be severe. They will be in court to see what happens.

The family members say their main goals are to make sure Sapper is punished — and that the public is protected.

“We are going to honor Scott by paying attention to what’s happening,” Tom McCarthy said. “We all hope nobody has to go through what Christine has gone through — what the rest of the family has gone through.”

 

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, swarsmith@thebeaconjournal.com and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.