Driver charged in Elder High School teacher's hit-and-run death pleads guilty to 2 counts

Posted at 9:40 AM, Mar 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-27 18:32:28-04

CINCINNATI -- The woman charged in the hit-and-run death of a longtime Elder High School teacher pleaded guilty to two counts Tuesday morning.

Mark Klusman

Kayla Wilson, 23, was accused of killing Mark Klusman, who was struck Dec. 9 in East Price Hill. Police said she was speeding and driving under the influence of marijuana on Warsaw Avenue when she hit Klusman and drove off.

Wilson pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide for driving recklessly and with a suspended license, and to leaving the scene of an accident. As part of her plea, Wilson agreed to a nine-year prison term. The judge also ordered a lifetime driving suspension.

Defense attorney Clyde Bennett II said Wilson pleaded guilty because of "the overwhelming evidence of each and every element of the crime."

Wilson had also been charged with:

  • One count of aggravated vehicular homicide, a first-degree felony, for driving while impaired and with a suspended license, and
  • One count of tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony.

"When you're confronted with that situation as a defense attorney, you've got to salvage your client's life -- literally. And that's what I had to do. I think a nine-year sentence is a very fair and just sentence," Bennett said.

Wilson was going more than 50 mph and lost control in a sharp bend when she hit Klusman, according to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters. Klusman was volunteering with students to pick up litter as part of an Elder-Price Hill cleanup day and was standing by the side of the road near Warsaw and Wilder avenues.

Wilson fled the scene and abandoned her car Downtown, Deters’ office said. She was arrested three days later.

Klusman, 74, was in his 51st year of teaching at Elder after graduating in 1961 and was an avid runner, coach, photographer and community volunteer.

The city of Cincinnati recently gave Vincent Avenue, adjacent to the high school, an honorary second name of Mark Klusman Way in his honor.

"(Wilson) is sorry for what happened to Mr. Klusman, and I can publicly say that I'm sorry for what happened to Mr. Klusman. By becoming acquainted with the case, he's a very, very outstanding man, just a great man in all respects," Bennett said.