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Man gets 3 years in vehicular death

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    Defendent Damion Cheers, right, appears Thursday in Lorain County Common Pleas Court. His attorney, Anthony Baker, sits next to him.

    KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

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ELYRIA — A Lorain man was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison and had his driver’s license suspended for five years for his involvement in a fatal hit-and-run in 2015.

During Damion Cheers’ sentencing, Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Chris Cook said he believed the car crash that led to the death of 17-year-old Jayvian Johnson was an accident but that leaving the scene was inexcusable.

Lorain police have said Cheers, 27, was driving a 2008 Dodge Avenger that hit Johnson as he was walking east in the westbound lane of West 23rd Street about 9 p.m. Oct. 19, 2015.

Johnson’s girlfriend, Andrea Bentley, has said Johnson was listening to music on headphones and didn’t hear her scream a warning before he was struck.

Cheers, who pleaded guilty last month to charges of vehicular homicide, failure to stop after an accident and driving under suspension, turned himself in to Lorain police about a week after the crash after officers identified him as the driver.

“I truly believe this was an accident and you didn’t mean to harm that young man, but there was no excuse to leave, to let that child be on the side of the road, pass away, is inexcusable,” Cook said. “I don’t know if he could have been saved. I would not put that on you. I don’t know that, but the decent human, right thing to do would have been to stay there, call 911, do whatever you could, put that kid in the car, rush him to the hospital if you have to.”

Cook said he would “keep the door open” for a possible early release for Cheers if he does well in prison.

Both Cheers and his father, Ray Cheers Jr., asked for forgiveness.

“I want to tell the family that I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for it to happen,” Damion Cheers said. “It wasn’t intentional. I’m sorry.”

Ray Cheers said the families knew each other prior to the crash because a niece of Ray Cheers was dating a family member of Johnson’s.

“My family is very sorry for what happened,” Ray Cheers said. “I know you guys will never forget, but I ask you to please forgive my son for this accident.”

Johnson’s aunt, Janaa Austin, told the judge she doesn’t believe Damion Cheers is getting an appropriate sentence.

“Our nephew, brother, cousin — he’s never coming back, and I don’t feel like the little bit of time he’s getting is justified,” Austin said. “I just want you to take into consideration the pain that we’re feeling knowing that our loved one is not coming back.”

Contact Jodi Weinberger at 329-7245 or jweinberger@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jodi_Weinberger.



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