Driver sentenced to 90 days after 'senseless joyride' killed pri - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Driver sentenced to 90 days after 'senseless joyride' killed priest

Jeffrey Higgins (FOX19 NOW) Jeffrey Higgins (FOX19 NOW)
Father Chris Coleman ( Father Chris Coleman (
Dr. Paula Coleman Black (FOX19 NOW) Dr. Paula Coleman Black (FOX19 NOW)

A driver responsible for the death of a priest will serve 90 days in jail.

Jeffrey Higgins was sentenced for vehicular homicide on Thursday.

Higgins was driving on Mt. Pleasant Avenue in July when he lost control, hit a guardrail and flipped his sports car onto its top. 

The judge called it a "senseless joyride."

His passenger, Father Chris Coleman, 50, died from his injuries at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Father Coleman was the pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenhills, St. Matthias in Forest Park and St. James of the Valley in Wyoming.

Higgins spoke before being sentenced.

"Chris and I were the best of friends, and I am responsible for his death," said Higgins. "It torments my soul."

He said he is always thinking about what happened.

"I know many of Chris' friends and family and parishioners and their faces of grief torture my thoughts, day and night," said Higgins. "I want them all to know how much I love Chris and how sorry I am for their grief and all that has happened."  

Father Coleman's sister, Paula Coleman Black, also spoke at the sentencing.

"I believe a responsible person considers consequences of their actions," said Dr. Coleman Black. "Did Jeff consider he would lose control of his car? And seriously hurt himself or someone else? Did Jeff consider that there were other people in close proximity that could have been hurt or possibly killed?"

She said the priest had an important role in so many people's lives. 

"The loss of Chris leaves a tremendous hole in all of our hearts," said Dr. Coleman Black.

Judge Ethna Cooper called Higgins' decisions "irresponsible" and "shocking."

"You carelessly showed off your car, you killed your friend, you exhibited extremely bad judgment that day with a senseless joyride," said Judge Cooper. "It was totally avoidable and it changed the lives of countless people, family, friends, and all the people touched by the life of Father Chris."

She said she hoped something positive will come out of the tragedy.

"'God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.' Father Chris concluded each mass with that prayer. But he's no longer here to say it because he's dead," said Judge Cooper.

In addition to jail time, Higgins was sentenced to 90 days electronic monitoring and 3 years of probation.

He must serve 250 hours of community service.

He will also have to pay $1,000 fine plus court costs.

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