FOWLER TWP., Ohio (WKBN) – Friends and family are remembering a 27-year-old Cortland woman, whose life was taken in a fatal pedestrian accident.
The man accused of striking her is facing felony charges for allegedly fleeing the scene.
Ohio State Highway Patrol said Brittany Szwedko passed away from her injuries at St. Elizabeth Hospital on Tuesday. She was struck around 12:30 p.m. February 27 while walking on the side of Ridge Road in Fowler Township.
“She was running against traffic. She was not in the roadway whatsoever when she was struck,” said State Highway Patrol Lt. Brian Holt.
Szwedko had been training for a half marathon this weekend, according to the Youngstown Road Runners group. A tribute will be held for Szwedko at that race.
Police said the man who hit Szwedko, 43-year-old Russell Lauer III, never stopped after hitting her. He was chased by a witness who managed to stop his car and call 911.
That witness told a 911 dispatcher that Lauer appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“He ran from me for about three miles after he hit this lady, and I stopped him, and I said, ‘You just hit that lady and killed her,’ and he said, ‘I know…'” the caller said.
Lauer has been charged with aggravated vehicular homicide and felony leaving the scene of a crash.
Lt. Holt said Lauer was “extremely impaired,” but investigators are waiting for the results of a blood-alcohol test to determine what he had used prior to the crash.
“I believe that a person who is not impaired would not have struck her. There were no sight distance issues, there were no obstructions, it was a straight stretch of road where she was struck,” he said.
This isn’t the first time Lauer has been in trouble with the law. Prosecutors said he has two prior convictions for driving while under influence of drugs or alcohol, as well as a prior reckless operation charge and seven prior suspensions on his driving record.
On Wednesday, he pleaded not guilty to four charges though video arraignment. His bond was set at $215,000.
If convicted on all charges, Lauer faces a maximum of 11 and a half years in prison.
Former Trumbull County victim advocate, Miriam Fife, was in court on Wednesday. She said she knew Brittany and would wave to her and make small talk.
“I used to see her out a lot, especially in the summer with her three dogs, and she’d walk around the neighborhood,” Fife said.
She described Szwedko as a bubbly person and feels for her family.
The Cortland woman worked as an associate in the Public Relations Department of the Cortland Library, according to Warren-Trumbull County Public Library Director Jim Wilkins.
Wilkins said the staff is devastated by the loss of their friend and co-worker and that Szwedko has been a part of the library for nearly 10 years.
“Brittany was a caring, compassionate person. She was professional and extremely competent as a library employee,” Wilkins said. “Her sunny disposition and cheerful demeanor will be missed by each one of us as we mourn her loss. Our thoughts are with Brittany’s family.”