Tyler Nichols, second from right, at Crosby's trial in December. Tyler Nichols spoke Friday at Crosby's sentencing.

Ithaca, N.Y. — The family members of the two people killed in a 2013 New Year’s Eve accident gave heartfelt pleas in Tompkins County Court on Friday, seeking a maximum sentence for the man responsible for the crash.

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James Crosby, 20, of Van Etten, was given an indeterminate sentence of 4–12 years in prison. Those killed in the accident included Crosby’s passenger, 20-year-old Derek Nichols, and a passenger in the other car, Kathy Lattimore.

James Crosby

In addition, the driver and a second passenger of the other car, Samantha and Eugene Aarnio, were hospitalized with injuries.

Crosby was convicted of two counts of second-degree manslaughter, second and third-degree assault and of reckless driving.

There were seven statements given total, three delivered directly and four written statements read by the prosecutor. Over 30 people were in the court for the sentencing.

Lattimore’s widower

Guy Lattimore gave a detailed account of what happened that night, including the confusion of not knowing where his wife was for several hours.

Lattimore said once he heard about the crash, he traveled to a hospital in Sayre, Pennsylvania. Samantha and Eugene Aarnio, his daughter-in-law and son, had been taken there.

At that time, no one knew where his wife was. Later, Guy Lattimore was informed that Kathy had been admitted into a hospital in Cortland, New York. Not long after, he received a second call informing him she had died.

In his statement, Guy Lattimore said he learned from reports that it had taken an hour to cut his wife from the Jeep and that she was conscious for the entire time. At that point, the weather had deteriorated and she had to be transported by ambulance instead of helicopter. During the ride to Cortland, emergency responders lost her and revived her.

He said he was told that when she was finally cut free of the Jeep, she put her hand over her rescuer’s heart and said ‘thank you.’

“That’s the last thing I know my wife did on this earth,” Lattimore said.

Her death, he said, was a result of James Crosby’s carelessness and “joyriding” — and he should be severely punished as a result.

Nichols’ Younger Brother

Tyler Nichols spoke in his statement about the deep trauma the loss of his brother has caused him and, in particular, his mother, who he said attempted suicide and still doesn’t know how to go on. He said she wasn’t in the courtroom today because she couldn’t handle doing so.

Tyler Nichols said that night in 2013 was the worst of his life, and that he was the one who had to break the news to his mother. When he spoke about going to his brother’s funeral, he broke down and cried at the stand.

“I trusted Jimmy with my brother’s life, and he broke my trust,” Nichols said.

Like all the others that spoke about their losses, he asked the judge to give Crosby a maximum sentence.

“I want justice for my brother, he deserves justice,” Tyler Nichols said.

Tyler Nichols, second from right, at Crosby’s trial in December. Tyler Nichols spoke Friday at Crosby’s sentencing. (Jeff Stein/Ithaca Voice)
Tyler Nichols, second from right, at Crosby’s trial in December. Tyler Nichols spoke Friday at Crosby’s sentencing. (Jeff Stein/Ithaca Voice)

Lattimore’s Daughter

Alexandra Lattimore gave the longest statement at the sentencing, and, like her father, spoke in detail of what happened the night her mother died.

Lattimore, who suffers from mental health problems, said she relied heavily on her mother for understanding and help with socialization.

“She was the only person in this world I trusted with my entire being,” Lattimore said. “She was not just my mother, my rock, my confidant, but my very best friend.”

Lattimore said her psychological injuries are numerous. She said Crosby deserved maximum sentence because he was likely to take more lives.

“James Crosby has never once showed remorse in this whole process; he claimed to be innocent until the very end,” she said.

See related: Attorney: Driver in Tompkins manslaughter case ‘has been through hell and back’

Prosecutor and Judge

Assistant District Attorney Eliza Filipowski reiterated that a maximum sentence of 15 years was being sought by the people. She also said that the law was benefiting Crosby, since he would be serving his five separate convictions consecutively.

Citing a longer history of traffic tickets, Filipowski said the new speeding ticket he received in 2014 for going 55 in a 40 miles per hour zone proved that he had learned nothing from the accident.

Judge John Rowley said that although he has been presiding over felony cases for a long time now, this case in particular was an emotional one.

“I’ve been deeply affected,” Rowley said. “I’ve watched your parents sit through this and their hearts break.”

Rowley said the descriptions from family members about the hours of uncertainty regarding Lattimore’s whereabouts and conditions and the efforts to save her life were very moving, in addition to Samantha Aarnio’s critical condition. He also said Crosby’s youth added to the tragedy.

In addition to the 4–12 year indeterminate sentence, Rowley revoked Crosby’s license and ordered the payment of funeral expenses.

“You’re going to prison,” Rowley said. “Unlike Kathy and Derek, you’re going to come back.”

Rowley also reminded the families that revenge does not cure the loss.

“Peace does not come from punishment,” he said.


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