Chesterton Tribune

Man pleads to OWI in doctor's death; facing new OWI charge

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A Michigan City man is facing a possible prison term of up to 12 years after pleading guilty to three charges in connection with the accident last year which claimed the life of Beverly Shores cardiologist Morton Arnsdorf.

Timothy Hefner, 18—who was 17 at the time of the crash and subsequently waived into adult court—has pleaded guilty to operating while intoxicated with a blood alcohol content over .08 percent—causing death, a Class C felony punishable by a term of two to eight years in prison; OWI with a B.A.C. of over .08 percent-causing serious bodily injury, a Class D felony punishable by a term of six months to three years; and criminal recklessness, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a term of up to a year, Porter County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Bennett told the Chesterton Tribune today.

A total of 11 charges were originally filed against Hefner—seven felonies and four misdemeanors—but under Indiana Code all lesser and included charges must be dismissed with a plea to the most serious. The Class C felony to which Hefner has pleaded guilty was filed in connection with Arnsdorf’s death; the Class D felony, in connection with the injury of Hefner’s own passenger.

Under the plea-and-argue arrangement, Bennett said, Hefner could be sentenced to a maximum of 12 years. Sentenced is scheduled for May 2 before Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford.

Bennett noted that Hefner was just arrested on Saturday by Michigan City Police on a charge of OWI with an alleged B.A.C. of .13 percent. That most recent charge may not be used as an aggravating factor in Hefner’s May 2 sentencing, as it’s a separate case which occurred after the fact. It’s possible, on the other hand, that Saturday’s charge may play into any considerations of leniency entertained by Bradford, Bennett added.

According to the Porter County Sheriff’s Police, at 5:32 p.m. on June 2 Hefner was eastbound on U.S. Highway 20 at a high rate of speed when he rear ended Arnsdorf as Arnsdorf was slowing his 2007 Saab to turn left onto northbound C.R. 300E. The impact drove Arnsdorf’s Saab across the center line and into the westbound lanes of U.S. 20, police said, where he was struck by an oncoming 2003 Mercury driven by John Merrell, 62, of Portage.

The Saab, with Arnsdorf in it, became engulfed in flames and Arnsdorf was pronounced dead at the scene. The Coroner’s Office later said that the collision rendered Arnsdorf immediately unconscious.

Hefner himself was airlifted to a South Bend hospital with unspecified injuries.

In August, Juvenile Court Magistrate Edward Nemeth waived Hefner into adult court and ordered him moved from the Juvenile Detention Center to the Porter County Jail, after finding that Hefner’s alleged offenses are “part of a repetitive and escalating pattern of offenses ranging from status offenses to Class C felonies, with Hefner’s recording “nine separate referrals with 10 different offenses, with his first referral shortly before his 10th birthday.”

Nemeth also observed that Hefner “has not been in school since he was in ninth grade” and concluded that “the child is beyond rehabilitation under the juvenile justice system.”

According to the University of Chicago Medical Center’s website, Arnsdorf was a “nationally known cardiologist” who served as chief of the UC Section of Cardiology for nine years, a master of the American College of Cardiology—an honor bestowed on fewer than 50 cardiologists in the nation—and an “accomplished researcher” whose interests included arrhythmias, hypertension, and atherosclerosis.


Posted 3/22/2011