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September 14, 2003

Parole denied for driver

Jash Lardie's request for new trial denied

Record-Eagle staff writer

      TRAVERSE CITY - Jash Eli Lardie will remain in prison rather than admit he was the driver who caused a drunken crash 10 years ago that killed three teenagers.
      Lardie, 28, was denied parole this month after he faced a parole board for a second time in two years - and for a second time maintained he was not responsible for the May 23, 1993, crash.
      Lardie will be eligible for release again in early 2005.
      Lardie was 17 at the time of the crash and is serving a six- to 15-year sentence after a jury convicted him in 1996 of three counts of drunken driving causing death.
      Killed were Jason Stutesman, 17, Kendra Tiernan, 15, and Erinn Tompkins, 17.
      Earlier this year Circuit Judge Philip Rodgers ruled against a motion Lardie filed for a new trial based on new evidence he said proved he was not the driver.
      Lardie's refusal to admit responsibility, which relatives of the victims have said in the past has caused them great anguish, is not the first time he has rankled the court system and the community.
      Rodgers originally sentenced Lardie to a year in the county jail and five years probation, but Lardie was not able to abide by some of the conditions.
      He refused to sign a probation order. He defied a judge's order to stop sending letters about his new-found religious beliefs to families of the victims. And he outraged the community by refusing to accept responsibility for his crime.
      Rodgers, who drew heavy criticism when he initially sentenced Lardie to a year in jail, then ordered him to serve six to 15 years in prison at a probation violation hearing in 1997.
      Although no one from the parole board will discus its decisions, it's likely Lardie was denied because he has not admitted he caused the single-car crash, people familiar with the case say.
      Gail Madziar, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Corrections, said an inmate's refusal to admit guilt is grounds for denial of parole.
      Rodgers agreed to comment about the case because he no longer presides over it. He said he wrote to the parole board before Lardie's first appearance two years ago about his concern over Lardie's lack of remorse, but he said he did not get involved in the board's recent decision.
      "Unfortunately, what Mr. Lardie has demonstrated to me over the years is an almost pathological belief that he is innocent, that people would realize he's innocent and that, like Jesus, he would forgive them," Rodgers said.
      Rodgers said that several years ago Lardie sent him a drawing of a hand, presumably Lardie's, nailed to a section of a cross.
      Lardie insists he is innocent, even though he told police at the time of the crash that he had no memory of what happened.
      Lardie's father, Jeff Lardie, said he has talked to his son about the possibility that if he took responsibility and showed remorse he could be released from prison. Lardie is not going to do that, he said.
      "That would be lying to him," Jeff Lardie said.
      Lardie's new trial motion this year included a claim that he discovered evidence to prove he didn't drive the 1987 Nissan that rolled over and crashed into a tree on Peninsula Drive.
      Lardie and the other teens had been at a party at Lardie's parents' house on Seven Hills Road. According to testimony at Lardie's trial, the party quickly grew out of hand as dozens of teenagers arrived to drink beer and whiskey at a bonfire behind the house.
      In his motion, and at his trial, Lardie says he believes the actual driver of the car was the crash's only other survivor, Christopher Timm.
      Police who investigated the accident disputed that theory. They noted that hair that appeared to belong to Lardie was found in the windshield in front of the driver's seat. Hair that apparently belonged to Timm was found in the windshield in front of the passenger sear, police said.
      This summer, detectives from the Grand Traverse Sheriff's Department investigated a claim that Lardie's brother had a chance encounter with a witness in the case, an acquaintance of Timm.
      According to a police report, the witness said Timm admitted to him in late 1993 during a late-night, drunken conversation that Timm believed he was the driver of the car. Detectives - and the Record-Eagle - could not locate Timm.
      Rodgers refused Lardie's motion, saying the new evidence was not trustworthy.
      Families of the victims could not be located for this article, but some of them have spoken publicly in the past about the anguish they have suffered because Lardie has not shown remorse.

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