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Champion man charged in fatal Howland crash

Staff photo / Guy Vogrin Damien L. Fish of Champion, left, appears in court Wednesday with pajama tops and a halo. He said he had broken bones in his neck from the Sept. 23 accident that killed a Howland man in his home. Fish was arraigned before Judge W. Wyatt McKay of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court, who set bond at $25,000. At right is attorney David Rouzzo.

HOWLAND — A Champion man accused of driving his 2006 Honda Civic into a Howland home the night of Sept. 23, crushing the man and his dog in the basement, was arraigned Wednesday on multiple charges in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.

A report to the court from the prosecution states Damien L. Fish, 24, of 5265 N. Park Ave. Extension, Champion, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Oh well!” when a state trooper informed him about the death — and at the hospital gave the “middle finger” to a trooper.

Fish on Wednesday was represented by court-appointed attorney David Rouzzo, who said Fish is not guilty.

Fish is accused of crashing into 1313 DeForest Road SE, killing Matthew Burke, 45, who was on Skype with his girlfriend at the time.

Fish appeared in court in a neck halo and pajama top, saying he had two broken bones in his neck from the accident. Judge W. Wyatt McKay took his injuries in account in setting Fish’s bond at $25,000 with stipulations he be under the care of his father Ed Stanton; fitted with electronic monitoring; not drive any motor vehicle; and have no contact with the victim’s family.

“The nature of the circumstances of this case are very troubling. You drove dangerously while impaired,” McKay told the defendant.

Fish was secretly indicted on charges of aggravated vehicular homicide and two counts of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He was arrested and taken into custody at 3:40 p.m. Tuesday, Trumbull County jail records show.

His next pre-trial hearing will be Oct. 14 before McKay.

Assistant Prosecutor Michael Burnett asked for $500,000 bond because, he said, Fish is a “present danger” to society.

In a memorandum to the court, Burnett wrote that Fish was driving eastbound in an erratic manner, lost control and sendt the vehicle off the road — ultimately crashing into the home on DeForest Road. The car hit the house with such force that it burst through the wall, crashed through the floor and plummeted into the basement, where it crushed and killed the victim and his dog as they lied in bed watching a movie.

“This already tragic chain of events is even more heartbreaking when it was learned the victim was on video chat with his fiancee, Misty Young, at the time of the crash. The woman witnessed the crash via video chat and could hear Burke crying out for help before he died,” Burnett wrote.

It was Young who reported the crash to 911 from where she was in Canada.

Troopers noted a strong odor of alcohol when they talked to Fish at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital, where Burnett said Fish recorded a 0.233 blood-alcohol content level. The legal limit for driving in Ohio is 0.08.

While interviewing with the troopers about the accident, Burnett wrote Fish refused to answer more than the most basic questions and at times launched into profanity laced tirades. When the trooper advised Fish he had killed someone, Burnett wrote the defendant shrugged his shoulders and said, “oh well!”

When hospital staff attempted to draw blood, the memorandum states, the defendant became loud and obnoxious, refusing to sit still. When the trooper left the room, the defendant gave him the “middle finger” telling him to “get out of my room.”

The memorandum states Fish also tested positive for a prescription tranquilizer, the psychoactive compounds in cannabis, and Oxycodone.

gvogrin@tribtoday.com

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