Mark Klusman's nephew says Elder teacher wouldn't judge woman accused in fatal hit-and-run

Kayla Wilson's bond raised to $1 million

CINCINNATI -- Mark Klusman’s nephew says the Elder High School teacher never judged others and wouldn’t now in the case of the 23-year-old woman charged in his fatal hit-and-run.

“Uncle Mark would never judge anyone, at all, even in this situation,” Matt Klusman told WCPO Friday.  “So, given the fact of where she's at - and Cincinnati PD did a great job with that - we just have to have faith in the judicial system to carry out their end of it and do what they see fit.”

Mark Klusman endured “17 days of daily pain in the ICU” before succumbing Tuesday, his nephew said in his first public comments since assuming the role of family spokesperson.

Matt called his uncle a “humble hero” and said he admired his lifetime of community service and teaching.

“His whole life he pretty much did service to the community in so many different ways,” Matt said. The irony is, I guess, ultimately he's going out doing what he loved to do and that is serving the community.”

Kayla Wilson in court

Also Friday, a judge increased Kayla Wilson’s bond  to $1 million during a video arraignment, but her charges did not change. New charges could go to a grand jury next week following Klusman's death.

Wilson, 23, remains locked up in the Hamilton County Justice Center, where she has been since her arrest on Dec. 12 - three days after she's accused of hitting Klusman on Warsaw Avenue in East Price Hill.

Wilson's attorney, Clyde Bennett, failed to show up for Friday's hearing, according to the judge, so Wilson's case was assigned to a public defender.

An assistant prosecutor gave the state's version of what happened when Klusman was struck Dec. 9.

The assistant prosecutor said Wilson was speeding about 50 mph southbound down the hill when she lost control. Wilson's car then spun sideways and hit a parked pickup truck and Klusman, who was standing at the rear of the truck.

Wilson was driving under two license suspensions, the assistant prosecutor said. Police have said Wilson was using marijuana at the time.  

Wilson was indicted Dec. 20 on charges of aggravated vehicular assault, vehicular assault and failing to stop. 

Klusman, 74, dedicated his life to volunteering and teaching, his nephew said. He was in his 51st year of teaching at Elder after graduating in 1961.

"He loved what he did. He loved everything from the colleagues to the students to every facet of what he did," Matt Klusman said. "He felt as though his mission here in life was to serve and that's what he did and he did well and he didn't ask a single thing in return.

"One of the most Christian men you would ever meet, just an icon of Western Hills, and just such a loss to lose him."   

Matt Klusman said his family's faith is helping them through their grief, and he thanked the public for its support.

"We knew he had a tremendous impact on society in general ... but we have been just overwhelmed with support from every avenue you can imagine, people whose lives he touched, people who he mentored."

The Elder teacher and several students were out on a Saturday cleaning up neighborhood streets when Klusman was struck, according to Roger Auer, Elder campus ministry and community service coordinator. Klusman was pulling a leaf blower out of a pickup truck near Warsaw and Wilder avenues when he was hit, Auer said. 

A service for Klusman will be held at 10 a.m. Jan. 3 at St. Monica - St. George Parish. A reception will follow from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Jan. 3 at Elder High School’s Schaeper Center. 

Warsaw Avenue is one of Cincinnati's worst spots for pedestrians, according to a WCPO review of traffic crash records last year. Although the most-dangerous stretch didn't include the block where Klusman was struck, a man was killed last month on that street just to the west. Well-known East Price Hill business owner Federico Ventura died when he, too, was struck by a hit-and-run driver near a Kroger store.

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