WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio – An 18-year-old was killed in a crash early Saturday, and the driver of the vehicle is now facing criminal impairment and vehicular homicide charges.
Family members of Mark Valentine identified him as the teen who died after the car he and two others were riding in crashed into a tree off Beckett Ridge Boulevard near the Beckett Ridge Golf Club at 4:47 a.m. Dec. 26.
According to a West Chester police incident report, responding officers said 18-year-old Tristan Lacey was operating the vehicle while impaired when the crash occurred. Lacey was arrested on Monday, charged with driving under the influence, underage consumption and aggravated vehicular homicide.
Officials with Butler County Court Area 3 expect Lacey to be arraigned Tuesday.
Valentine was a West Chester resident and senior at Cincinnati Christian who was planning to go to college for business. He was also considering a career in comedy, as he enjoyed rating others' jokes and working on his own jokes with his friends and family.
"He was a great guy to be around -- always lifted the mood, just a funny guy," older brother Eric Valentine, 19, said. "I loved him very much."
Some of Valentine's friends gathered in the Valentines' basement -- their usual hangout -- to talk about Mark Sunday. They were preparing to make a book of their memories of him.
"He taught me not to get too hung up on what other people think of you," friend Rich Owen said. "He's the most free-spirited man I know. He would do anything for a good joke, a good laugh."
The two brothers were riding in the car with one other person at the time of the crash. All three were ages 18 to 19, according to Barb Wilson, the West Chester Township director of integrated multimedia and marketing. Mark was sitting in the back seat.
Since the crash, friends and family have grown a memorial at the site with flowers and candles. Eric Valentine said the family appreciated the support.
"I would do anything to bring him back," he said. "All the love and support from everyone means a lot. It's all you can do."
Eric said he'd had three dreams -- all about Mark -- since the crash.
"I think about him all the time," he said. "Sometimes it's harder than others... For the rest of my life, I'm not going to have him, but he'll always be there. In my memories, I'll always be thinking about him. I loved him."
West Chester police were investigating the crash, Wilson said.