CLEVELAND (AP) — A man has been sentenced to 16 years to life in the death of an Ohio firefighter who was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver on an interstate as he was working at the scene of an earlier crash last fall.
Leander Bissell, 41, was convicted last month of murder, felonious assault, aggravated vehicular homicide and other counts in the Nov. 19 death of Cleveland firefighter Johnny Tetrick. A Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge sentenced him to life and denied parole consideration until he has served 16 years.
Tetrick, 51, a 27-year veteran of the department and a father of three, was struck as he was clearing debris at the scene of a rollover crash on I-90 in Bratenahl. Prosecutors said Bissell’s vehicle went onto the shoulder of the highway and accelerated, striking the firefighter and then fleeing. Police said the vehicle was found and Bissell arrested hours later.
Bissell, his voice shaking at times, apologized to the victim’s family during Tuesday’s sentencing hearing. Defense attorneys had argued that he was driving negligently — not recklessly — and did not intend to harm anyone. But he told Tetrick’s three daughters that they “deserve justice.”
“A family hero, a community hero, is gone,” Bissell said. “My actions make my soul shake.”
The victim’s daughters said they wanted to forgive Bissell because that’s what their father would have done.
“I do not hate you,” Eden Tetrick, 18, told Bissell. “I think that would be a lot easier.” Instead, she said, “I hope I see you one day in heaven as a brother in Christ.”
Falon Tetrick, the victim’s eldest daughter, credited support from firefighters at his station. She said she and her sisters didn’t have their father for long “but we had him for long enough.”
“He would drop us off at school and he would ask us, who comes first? God. And he would say who comes next? Others. And then who? Yourself. And so I think that speaks to every aspect of his life and what he poured into us and those guys back there.”