Contact: Douglas R. Lloyd, Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney, 517-543-4801
November 30, 2020
On September 18, 2019, Ronald Ramsey, age 83, of Vermontville, was driving his vehicle westbound on Vermontville Highway when he struck a horse drawn buggy carrying four children. The collision resulted in the tragic death of three of the children and injury to the fourth. After consultation with the parents of the children, and in consideration of the applicable punishments that would be available, the decision has been made not to issue criminal charges against Ramsey for the crash.
An investigation of the crash revealed that the four young Amish siblings were travelling westbound on Vermontville Highway near Ainger Road in a horse drawn buggy. The children, who were between the age of 6 and 13 at the time, were travelling home from school when they were struck from behind by a silver Chevrolet Equinox operated by Ronald Ramsey. Investigators found that the buggy was properly marked with lights and a slow moving vehicle triangle, that one of the children was wearing a reflective safety vest, and that the buggy was travelling on the right side of the roadway when it was struck. The collision occurred in the westbound lane, the weather was clear, the roadway was dry, and Ramsey was travelling 60 mph in a 55 mph zone. Ramsey advised investigators that he did not observe the buggy until impact.
The decision to not charge Ronald Ramsey for the crash is not a statement about his criminal culpability, rather a decision that charging him would not be likely to result in any additional sanction or punishment. After a review of the investigation reports, it is clear that there is probable cause to support charging Ramsey with three counts of Moving Violation Causing Death, MCL 257.601d(1) for the deaths of the three children. The offense is a one-year misdemeanor, meaning that a person convicted of the offense could be sentenced to up to 24 months of probation and up to 12 months in jail. In addition, the driving privileges of an offender would be suspended for 12 months. Further, the sentences for the three counts would be concurrent to each other, meaning that they would be served at the same time.
Based on Ramsey’s age, lack of criminal history, and the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is unlikely that he would be incarcerated if convicted. Rather, it is likely that a conviction would only result in a license sanction, something that has already been addressed. After the crash, the Secretary of State held a hearing regarding the crash and Ramsey’s driving privileges. At the conclusion of that hearing, Ramsey’s driving privileges were suspended for 12 months, followed by an indefinite suspension. In order to have his driving privileges restored after the initial 12 month suspension has expired, Ramsey will need to pass a vision exam, a written knowledge test, and a road test administered by the Secretary of State. The actions by the Secretary of State against Ramsey’s driving privileges is greater than the sanction associated with a criminal conviction.
After a complete analysis of the case and possible consequences, the conclusion was reached that formal charging and conviction of Ramsey was not likely to accomplish more than a conviction on paper. The ends of justice would not be advanced by such a prosecution; therefore, the decision was made to close the case without formal charges. The decision reached today was made in consultation with the family, and takes into consideration their wishes.
The loss of three beautiful children is an unimaginable tragedy, and our hearts still break for the family. Their grace during this incident has been truly remarkable. May peace continue to be with them as they move forward. Let the deaths of these children serve as a reminder to use care while driving, and take care of one another.