Driver Melinda Woodall sentenced to 13 years for killing cyclist Michael Prater

She had pills, heroin paraphernalia, police said
Posted at 12:06 PM, Aug 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-31 19:38:18-04

CINCINNATI - The driver who hit and killed a bicyclist – and then took off – asked for mercy at her sentencing Wednesday.

She didn't get it.

Michael Prater

Prosecutors say Melinda Woodall was high on 10 different drugs when she hit Michael Prater on Kellogg Avenue last January.

"Judge, Exhibit 19 shows how her windshield was crushed by Mr. Prater's head and the following exhibit are photos that show his hair in her car," the prosecutor said.

"These pictures, your honor, show she knew she hit a human being and left him by the side of the road to die like an animal."

Woodall called it  "a horrible mistake I will pay for the rest of my life."

At least 13 years, anyway, since that was her prison sentence.

 Police said  Woodall, 34, was high on prescription pills and tried to hide three pill bottles in her bra after she hit  Prater, 42, on the afternoon of Jan. 31. Woodall also had five syringes with residue, a metal spoon and a tourniquet in her purse that she admitted using for heroin, according to police.

Woodall claimed she was distracted by passengers in the rear seat when she hit Prater, who was pedaling  ahead of her in the bike lane. But police said she appeared to be under the influence of prescription narcotics.

Woodall said she didn't stop at the scene because she panicked.

Woodall pleaded no contest to charges of aggravated vehicular homicide along with drug possession, possession of drug instruments and failure to stop after an accident.

Woodall's attorney argued for a lighter sentence - possibly four to eight years - saying the focus should be more on Woodall's drug rehabilitation.

But the prosecution pushed for the maximum punishment of 17 years.

Just before the judge passed sentence, Woodall read a statement expressing her regret.

"Every time I have a conversation with my family or my children makes me think how the Prater family is left wishing how they could hear their loved ones voice," she said.

The Prater family attorney called the accident senseless.

"She hasn't had a license for a long time - she continued to drive," said Steve Magas. "She had a history of drug abuse for a long time - she continued to drive. This crash on Jan. 31 was just waiting to happen."

Members of Cincinnati's cycling community, who dedicated a "ghost bike" in Prater's honor, said they hope his death wasn't in vain.

"We need to study and learn from it, move forward and work to make sure that things like this don't happen again," said Frank Henson of Queen City Bike.