LOCKPORT – A man with severe Parkinson’s disease, whose doctor had signed a letter allowing him to regain his driver’s license, pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing two people in a March 27 high-speed crash in Wilson.
Frederick J. Lederhouse, 61, of Ransomville, admitted to two counts of criminally negligent homicide, which means he could be sent to prison for as long as eight years.
However, the District Attorney’s Office is recommending probation, citing Lederhouse’s medical problems.
State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. said he doesn’t know if he will follow that recommendation. Lederhouse remains free on his own recognizance to await sentencing Jan. 24.
“Our doctors believe he had a ministroke, or TIA, similar to Gary Kubiak, the coach of the Houston Texans” who collapsed on the sidelines during a game earlier this season, said defense attorney Joel L. Daniels.
Cathy World, 58, and Ronald Zauner, 69, both of Wilson, were killed in the crash.
“The black box in [Lederhouse’s] truck indicated he was driving 86 mph. The reconstruction says 78 mph,” Assistant District Attorney Claudette S. Caldwell said in court,
Lederhouse’s pickup rear-ended a car World was driving at about 4 p.m. March 27 on Wilson-Burt Road in Wilson. World’s car rolled into a ditch, and he was killed.
Lederhouse “went off the road, corrected, went back on the road and collided head-on with a car driven by Ronald Zauder, who died,” Caldwell said.
Daniels said the state Department of Motor Vehicles suspended Lederhouse’s driver’s license following a minor property damage accident last year. However, the license was restored on the recommendation of Lederhouse’s doctor, Daniels said. The DMV suspended the license again after the fatal crash.
“He no longer has a license,” Daniels said. The suspension was not contested this time.
Tests showed Lederhouse had a high level of Xanax in his system at the time of the crash, Caldwell said.
Daniels said Lederhouse has been taking that drug for 20 years because it reduces the shaking associated with Parkinson’s disease.
“He has no recollection of the events. It’s a terrible tragedy,” the defense attorney said.
Daniels said his client also has cerebral vascular disease, which is a narrowing of arteries in the brain; water on the brain; insulin-dependent diabetes; and hearing loss.
Caldwell said that Deputy District Attorney Theodore A. Brenner, who was unable to attend Wednesday’s court session, met with the victims’ families and outlined the plea offer.
“Ms. World’s family’s position is jail time, whereas Mr. Zauner’s wife was comfortable with a probation sentence,” Caldwell said.
“I have to tell you, I don’t know what I’m going to do in regard to sentence,” Kloch told Lederhouse. “If I find, after reviewing all the presentencing material, that I have to incarcerate you, I will give you the opportunity to withdraw your plea and proceed to trial.”