Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — A Ransomville man has been sentenced to five years probation and a $5,000 fine for his guilty plea to two counts of criminally negligent homicide in an accident that left two people dead.
The sentence was handed down Wednesday by State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. to Frederick Lederhouse. The judge also told Lederhouse, 61, that he won’t be driving for at least the next five years and ordered him to undergo a drug and alcohol abuse evaluation.
Lederhouse pleaded guilty to the negligent homicide counts in a deal with prosecutors in November.
At his plea hearing, Assistant District Attorney Claudette Caldwell said Lederhouse was driving his pickup truck on Wilson-Burt Road on March 27 when he struck the rear of a car driven by Cathy World, 58, of Wilson.
“The black box in (his) truck recorded that he was driving at 86 miles an hour when he struck (World’s) car,” Caldwell said. “A reconstruction (of the accident) placed the speed at 78 miles an hour.”
Caldwell said the force of the crash drove World’s car off the road and into a ditch with Lederhouse’s truck behind her.
“(Lederhouse) went off the road, then corrected his vehicle, came out of the ditch, crossed the road and struck (a second car) head on.”
That vehicle was driven by Ronald Zauner, 69, of Wilson. Niagara County Sheriff’s deputies who responded to the crash found both Zauner and World unconscious and in their vehicles. Zauner was pronounced dead at the scene.
World was taken to Eastern Niagara Hospital, where she was later pronounced dead. Lederhouse was also taken to the Newfane hospital, where he was treated for non-life threatening injuries.
Accident investigators said Lederhouse had a high level of Xanex in his blood at the time of the crash. Caldwell said prosecutors believed the high level of the anti-anxiety drug showed Lederhouse was not fit to drive and that led to the criminal charges in the case.
“Because of the high level of Xanex, and prior medical issues, (Lederhouse) was negligent in driving that day,” Caldwell said.
Lederhouse’s defense attorney, Joel Daniels, said his client, who suffers from “multiple medical issues” including Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes and water on his brain,” may have suffered “a mini-stroke” just prior to the accident.
“He has no recollection of the events. It was a terrible tragedy,” Daniels said.
Lederhouse had faced a possible prison term of 1 1/3 to 4 years. Prosecutors recommended the probation sentence.
They preciously indicated that the Zauner’s family was satisfied with that, but World’s family had asked for a jail term.
Neither family spoke at Wednesday’s sentencing, but both submitted letters to the judge.
Daniels said his client “has no intention of ever driving again.”