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Teen sentenced in traffic death

November 22, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Family members of a man killed in an accident in which the driver fled on foot afterward said they harbor no hatred for the driver and are praying for him to turn around his life.

Jacob S. Horner, 19, of 44 Navajo Lane, Hedgesville, W.Va., was sentenced Friday on charges related to the Feb. 22 crash and a separate incident. He pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident with death, reckless driving, no insurance, no operator's license and failure to render aid. He also pleaded guilty to unrelated counts of attempted breaking and entering and petit larceny.

The morning wreck happened after Horner, trying to elude a West Virginia State Police car that had just passed him, sped up slightly on Back Creek Valley Road. Horner collided with a Chevrolet Cavalier driven by Lynn Grattison Coffinbarger, 82. Coffinbarger, who was pulling out of his driveway, was killed and Horner fled.

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At the court hearing before Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes, Ruth Coffinbarger said she wanted to speak on behalf of her mother-in-law - Lynn Coffinbarger's widow - who is 82.

"She has no hatred for this young man. None of us do because we know that he's had problems," she said.

Lynn Coffinbarger was a beloved member of the community who was active with his church, she said.

"He was the person whose heart was bigger than anything I've ever seen," she said.

Ruth Coffinbarger said she hopes Horner matures and returns to the community. "I hope that he has learned something from this ... that's all we ask," she said.

Rick Coffinbarger, grandson of Lynn Coffinbarger, said his grandfather was the wisest man he knew, even with only a sixth-grade education. He told Horner that he hopes he turns around his life.

"I wish you luck," he said.

Horner, when given a chance to speak, said the wreck was an accident. He was 18 at the time.

"I didn't mean to do it," he said. "I'm sorry for doing that."

Horner was sentenced to serve three years in prison for the felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident with death, and one to three years for the felony charge of attempted breaking and entering. Once those prison sentences, which are to be served concurrently, are finished, Horner will return to Eastern Regional Jail to serve time for the misdemeanors.

Wilkes sentenced Horner to serve six months in jail for the petit larceny charge, six months for the driving without insurance charge, 90 days for the reckless driving charge and 10 days for the charge of failure to render aid. He must pay a $100 fine for driving without a driver's license.

Horner also must pay $556 to the owners of a small store in Tomahawk, which was the site of the attempted breaking and entering, Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said.

Family members must approve of a plea bargain before it is accepted by a judge. Although some people wondered why the family consented to the plea, Ruth Coffinbarger said her mother-in-law did not want to endure a trial.

"I hope that this means something to him," she said after the hearing. "I just hope that he has a better life."

Horner, who lives within sight of the Coffinbarger family's church, lost both of his parents, Ruth Coffinbarger said. Games-Neely said that Horner's mother and father were killed in car accidents.

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