In August, 27-year-old Nicholas Monachino pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, failure to stop after an accident and OVI. Investigators say Monachino’s blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit, and he had cocaine and marijuana in his system when he crashed his car into the back of a motorcycle on state Route 82 in Aurora on April 29.
The driver of the motorcycle, 29-year-old Ryan Tucholsky, and his passenger, 40-year-old Sara Tartaglio, were thrown from the bike. Both died as a result of their injuries. Monachino never stopped, and the damaged front end of his car dragged on the roadway for miles.
He later crashed the car in a ditch in his parents’ driveway in Aurora, seemingly unaware he had just taken the lives of two people. On an Aurora police officer’s body camera video, Monachino is heard asking repeatedly, “What am I being arrested for?”
Before sentencing, prosecutors and the judge pointed out that the terrible tragedy in Aurora could have been avoided if a Walton Hills police officer had done his job and arrested Nicholas Monachino minutes before the fatal crash.
The officer witnessed Monachino swerve around slower traffic at a high speed and nearly lose control of his car. The officer followed Monachino to a gas station and and questioned him about his driving. After failing to notice Monachino’s signs of impairment or the beer in his car, the officer let Monachino go with just a warning to slow down.
The officer’s body camera video shows he even gave Monachino a fist bump as he was letting him go. Portage County Common Pleas Court Judge Laurie Pittman called the officer’s failure to arrest Monachino before the fatal crash the “800-pound elephant in the room.”
“They are supposed to protect and serve. That didn’t happen. Anyone could tell that you were under the influence,” Judge Pittman said.
The Walton Hills Police Department said the officer resigned from the police force on July 25.
Before the Tuesday sentencing, the families of Tucholsky and Tartaglio told the judge about the impact of Monachino’s crime.
“They were going to get married. He was preparing to propose. They were going to add to the beautiful family that they already had,” said Tucholsky’s mother, Diane New, who wept as she addressed the court.
Sara’s sister, Christine Fuller, told the judge, “when he hit my sister and Ryan, that was bad. But the worst part was that he hit them and he left them as if they were nothing more than roadkill.”
After listening to all of the statements, Judge Pittman sentenced Nicholas Monachino to 15 years in prison and suspended his driver’s license for life. Before he is sent to prison, he must serve 180 days in a local jail as punishment for his OVI conviction.