Drunk driver dodges homicide charge after cause of death change

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) -- A repeat drunk driver pleads guilty to a lesser charge in a deadly crash all after a rare change in a coroner's ruling.

Debbie Meadows died 11 days after a May 2014 crash, where the cause of death was changed from crash-related blunt force trauma due to cancer complications. Had the original ruling stood, Timothy Castle would've faced vehicular homicide charges.

Meadows was driving home after having dinner with friends. Castle was also on the road when police say he slammed into her at Wilson and Trabue Roads.

Former Franklin County Coroner Dr. Jan Gorniak signed the first death certificate, showing blunt force trauma of the head in that crash caused Meadows' death. The family also believes the crash killed her.

"If you look at the doctors' reports," said Dawn Call, who would've been Meadows' daughter-in-law. "She had a gash across her forehead and lacerations across her body as a result of this accident."

ABC 6/FOX 28 uncovered current Franklin County Coroner Dr. Anahi Ortiz changed the cause to natural due to cancer, which is an extremely rare move. The changed happened in December, a year-and-a-half after the original death certificate was issued.

"All the facts include a report from Dr. Werner Spitz, who's a world renowned forensic pathologist. [He] also concluded that Ms. Meadows' cause of death was natural," said Todd Long, Castle's story

The vehicular homicide charge was dropped, and Castle pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, which could mean he serves only days in jail.

Outside the courtroom, Castle said he felt like he hadn't gotten away with something.

"The whole situation that happened is very unfortunate," said Castle. "There [were] two families affected that day, not just one. My family, by the news media, has been destroyed. My credibility, by you guys, has been nothing less than demoralizing to me. I myself am sorry to the Meadows family that they have lost a loved one. I've prayed many nights for their family, as well as my own."

The Meadows family is outraged.

"It's an insult to our family," said Dawn Call. "It is incredibly sad. He can't even have any remorse and show any sort of remorse towards the family. We're not looking for an incredible life-long sentence. We just want some remorse towards the family and for him to show the severity that he took a life and he was in the wrong."

Castle will be sentenced March 21, 2017.

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