Driver who killed cy­clist re­ceives prison sen­tence

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Front Page - By Paula Reed Ward

For four months, Cyn­thia Tay­lor drove aim­lessly all over Al­legheny and the sur­round­ing coun­ties, look­ing ev­ery­where for the white GMC Sierra that po­lice be­lieved struck her son, killing him.

She would fol­low pickup trucks along the high­way and take pho­to­graphs of them.

“No mat­ter what, I would not stop look­ing,” she said Thurs­day.

Bran­don Ort­mann, 24, of Am­bridge had been rid­ing his bi­cy­cle along Steubenville Pike about 8 p.m. on Sept. 18, 2015, when he was struck in the face by the side view mir­ror of a pass­ing pickup that kept go­ing.

He was thrown from his bi­cy­cle and suf­fered dev­as­tat­ing head in­juries.

Mr. Ort­mann died the next morn­ing at Al­legheny Gen­eral Hospi­tal.

North Fayette po­lice led the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and af­ter they and Ms. Tay­lor put up a bill­board on In­ter­state 376 seek­ing de­tails about the ve­hi­cle in­volved, in­ves­ti­ga­tors got a tip.

They found parts of a side mir­ror and fen­der on the prop­erty of Zachary Chicko that matched

ev­i­dence from the crime scene. He was charged with leav­ing the scene of a fa­tal ac­ci­dent and driv­ing on a sus­pended li­cense.

On Thurs­day, Chicko, 32, who was found guilty in a non-jury trial in July, was or­dered to serve three to six years in state prison. He will be el­i­gi­ble for pa­role af­ter 27 months.

Al­legheny County Com­mon Pleas Judge Thomas E. Fla­herty de­ter­mined that a three-year manda­tory min­i­mum penalty for leav­ing the scene of a fa­tal ac­ci­dent ap­plied in the case, over the ob­jec­tion of de­fense at­tor­ney Lee Rothman.

“If Mr. Chicko would have stopped, we would not be here to­day. It would have been Over the next sev­eral deemed years, Ms. Tay­lor said, Mr. an ac­ci­dent,” Ort­mann had his own strug­gles. the He hid his feel­ings from judge said. his fam­ily and re­fused to go

Dur­ing to coun­sel­ing. the sen­tenc­ing He had a se­ries of mostly mi­nor run-ins with the law, hear­ing, in­clud­ing dis­or­derly con­duct Ms. Tay­lor for fight­ing, drug pos­ses­sion, re­counted bur­glary and driv­ing on a sus­pended li­cense. for the But then he met a wo­man court her son's life — from a with whom he planned to warm and lov­ing child­hood share his life. to trou­bled teen years while Still with a sus­pended li­cense, he dealt with his fa­ther, who Mr. Ort­mann rode his bat­tled de­pres­sion and al­co­holism. bi­cy­cle ev­ery­where — de­ter­mined not to break the law

On June 15, 2009, when he any­more and get his life was 18, Mr. Ort­mann re­ceived back on the right track. a dis­turb­ing call from “Bran­don was de­ter­mined his fa­ther, she said. He to beat his demons,” rushed to the man's home Ms. Tay­lor said. and found him dead. “I was, and still am, so

He had killed him­self. proud of him for fac­ing his con­se­quences head-on.”

Shayla Tal­bott, Mr. Ort­mann's girl­friend of two years, noted the irony that nei­ther the driver nor vic­tim had a valid driver's li­cense at the time of the crash.

“He's gone be­cause some­one chose to drive il­le­gally, and Bran­don did not,” she said.

At the time of the crash, Mr. Ort­mann was plan­ning to ask his girl­friend to move in with him.

She de­scribed him as artis­tic and ad­ven­tur­ous, sen­si­tive and kind.

“He was the love of my life,” she said. “I know I'll never meet some­one like him ever again.”

Mr. Ort­mann's fam­ily crit­i­cized what they per­ceived as Chicko's lack of re­morse and his fail­ure to come for­ward in the months af­ter the crash.

In­stead, Ms. Tay­lor con­tin­ued, he went home, went on with his life, and had the dam­age to his truck re­paired.

Less than two months af­ter his ar­rest, on March 10, 2016, Chicko was stopped again, in West­more­land County, for driv­ing on a sus­pended li­cense.

Ms. Tay­lor de­scribed her son as a lov­ing child who craved a sta­ble home life. When his fa­ther be­gan to ex­pe­ri­ence de­pres­sion and al­co­holism dur­ing Mr. Ort­mann's teen years, she said, it was dif­fi­cult for him.

Jamila Olowin­ski, Mr. Ort­mann's sis­ter, told Judge Fla­herty that she held her mom's hand in the de­liv­ery room when her brother took his first breath, and she held her mom's hand in the hospi­tal when he took his last.

She de­scribed her brother, 11 years her ju­nior, as hav­ing a great re­la­tion­ship with her that stayed close even af­ter she grew up and moved away.

Ms. Olowin­ski doesn’t want Mr. Ort­mann to be known as “the vic­tim,” “the dece­dent,” or “the bi­cy­clist,” but as her lit­tle brother.

“Zach's life should for­ever be changed,” she said. “He should not get to leave this court­room a free man.”

Chicko asked the court for mercy, not­ing that he is en­gaged, cares for his fi­ance's daugh­ter, and works 70 hours a week at two jobs.

“I did not know at the time what had struck my truck,” he said. "I am in­fin­itely sorry for my in­volve­ment in that ac­ci­dent.

“I can't ex­press enough sor­row to the fam­ily.”

Zachary Chicko

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