LAGRANGE COUNTY — Benjamin M. Stewart, 35, who has had addresses as 9564 N. Sand Point Drive, Cromwell; 902 N. Huntington St., and 9779 N. Pleasant Trace, Syracuse, was recently sentenced in LaGrange County Superior Court from a 2016 incident in that county. An address in Hyampam, Calif., was given to authorities at the Kosciusko County Jail when he was booked in January on failure to appear charges.
Stewart was charged with causing serious bodily injury when operating a vehicle with a schedule I or II substance in the body, dealing in marijuana, maintaining a common nuisance, all level 6 felonies; carrying a handgun without a license and driving while suspended, class A misdemeanors; possession of marijuana, a class B misdemeanor; possession of paraphernalia, class C misdemeanor; operating a motor vehicle without financial responsibility, class A infraction; driving left of center, class C infraction.
The charges followed an accident May 5, 2017 on SR 5, near CR 500N in LaGrange County. His vehicle crossed the center line, hitting another car and injuring three persons. Juan Loeza, 51 at the time, suffered head and chest injuries. An infant in the Loeza vehicle suffered a skull fracture and a 6-year-old suffered a lacerated liver. All three were taken to Parkview Regional Medical Center – Loeza and the infant flown by helicopter,the 6-year-old by ambulance. All three were initially listed in critical condition.
Two additional charges of causing serious bodily injury when operating a vehicle with a schedule I or II substance in the body, both level 6 felonies, were added a year later.
He was sentenced March 14, after entering a plea agreement to entering a guilty plea to one count of serious bodily injury when operating with a schedule I or II substance in the body, a level 6 felony; dealing in marijuana, a level 6 felony and carrying a handgun without a license, a class A misdemeanor. However Stewart failed to show at his sentencing hearing July 9 and a warrant was issued. He was arrested Jan. 15, 2019, and the sentencing was set for Jan. 31, but then changed to March 14.
LaGrange Superior Court Judge Lisa Bowen-Slaven sentenced Stewart to 2 ½ years on the felony charges and one year on the misdemeanor charge, to run concurrent. The sentence was ordered to be served through Northeast Indiana Community corrections, with six months suspended to be served on probation which can be served through Kosciusko County.
He was also ordered to pay $125,809.97 in restitution, perform 80 hours of community service work with one-half on road crew. His driver’s license was suspended for two years. All other charges were dismissed.