ALBION — Prosecutors are raising the stakes in the case against the man charged with hitting and killing West Noble teacher and coach Chuck Schlemmer, recently filing that they will seek habitual offender status.
Ryan Gravit, LaGrange, is facing Level 3 and Level 4 felony charges of leaving the scene of an accident causing death and operating while intoxicated causing death. Those charges carry potential penalties of three to 16 years and two to 12 years prison, respectively, if convicted.
On Wednesday, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Adam Mildred filed notice that the state will seek habitual offender status on Gravit.
That designation, if proven, could add a sentencing enhancement of between six and 20 additional years to the most serious charge.
Gravit’s attorney Greg Fumarolo questioned the timing, noting that the topic had been touched on during negotiation with prosecutors, although it had previously not been an issue at hand.
“That’s something that’s been threatened since the beginning,” he said.
Mildred said it had been considered previously and now prosecutors felt they had what was needed to file it.
The habitual status represents the potential for a significant amount of additional prison time on top of the original charges.
Gravit is charged with being intoxicated while driving a U-Haul truck on Aug. 16. According to police reports, Gravit crossed into the oncoming lane and hit Schlemmer on his bicycle head-on. He allegedly then drove away from the scene, heading to a Ligonier apartment complex.
Residents at the complex snapped photos of the U-Haul truck Gravit was allegedly driving, which suffered significant front-end damage including a smashed windshield.
A blood draw taken at Parkview Noble Hospital reportedly showed Gravit had a blood-alcohol content of .27%, more than three times the legal limit to be considered intoxicated at the wheel.
Schlemmer, a longtime West Noble teacher and cross country and track coach, suffered life-threatening injuries. After being airlifted to Parkview Regional Medical Center in Fort Wayne, his family took him off life support due to the severity of his injuries.
On Friday, Fumarolo asked the court set a trial date as the case moves forward without any resolution.
Noble Circuit Court Judge Michael Kramer set a week-long trial from June 8-12, with a final pre-trial date set for May 4 at 2 p.m. That date represents the last opportunity for both sides to reach a plea agreement.
After getting the trial date, Fumarolo noted that he may also seek to have the trial moved out of Noble County or have an out-of-county jury brought in to sit the case.
Because Schlemmer was so “well-known and popular” in Noble County, Fumarolo cited concerns about being able to sit an impartial jury in the case.
Kramer asked that, if such motions are going to be filed, for Fumarolo to do them in advance of the final pre-trial and then a separate hearing can be held to determine whether a change of venue or outside jury is necessary.