Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stripper sentenced to decade of imprisonment for running over customer

By Lauren Pack, Staff Writer [Journal-News, Hamilton, OH]

HAMILTON — An exotic dancer who pleaded guilty to striking a customer with her vehicle and dragging him to death was sentenced to 10 years in prison this afternoon [Thursday, April 7, 2011]in Butler County Common Pleas Court.

Kristina Hensley, 35, of Higginsport, was given the maximum sentence by Judge Keith Spaeth at a 1:30 p.m. hearing. Supporters of Jae Cho, the 31-year-old Monroe man killed by Hensley, applauded the judge’s ruling. Pam Birch, Hensley’s mother, began wailing as her daughter broke out in tears and doubled over.

Spaeth called the autopsy photos and the autophy report detailing how Cho died, “ghastly.” The judge said he had seen a lot of autopsy photos over the years, but Cho’s were “very hard to look at.”

“Given the circumstances of this case, Ms. Hensley, the court has not choice,” Spaeth said before handing down her sentence. “You didn’t just hit Mr. Cho, he was (dragged) to a horrible death.”

Hensley took a deal in February, pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and failure to stop after an accident. Her plea came days before she was scheduled to go to trial on charges of murder, aggravated robbery, theft and failure to stop after an accident.

She was accused of robbing and killing Cho on Aug. 7, and stealing from another customer a few hours earlier in Blue Ash. In the statement of facts read at her plea hearing, Hensley admitted to causing Cho’s death after attempting to steal from him.

Hensley originally told police that after the incident she received a call from her employer, Naughty Bodies, to go to 367 Timrick Place in Monroe for a private show. She said she arrived about 4:20 a.m., and that once inside, Cho touched her inappropriately. She told police she left immediately, and Cho followed her out of the house. She struck him with her vehicle as she fled, but told authorities she didn’t know Cho was lodged underneath her sport-utility vehicle.

In a sentencing memorandum filed this week, defense attorneys Jeremy Evans and Timothy Upton urged the judge to give Hensley community control or sentence her to the minimum of three years in prison with credit for the 334 days she has served since her arrest. Hensley has three sons, ages 13, 8, and 7, and is engaged to their father, who has been unemployed for some time, according to defense attorneys.

“As a result, Kristina has been the sole income provider for their family, opting to work as a dancer due to economic hardship in an economy that had nothing else to offer her,” Evans wrote in the motion. “She would sit in a parking lot waiting for a call to do a show, travel alone to a show, go alone to a stranger’s home to perform and was expected to collect the money, perform a show and leave without incident.”

The defense also said Hensley has no prior violent history and her only exposure to the criminal system was in 2002 in Florida for petty larceny and resisting an officer in the recovery of a stolen vehicle. “The facts surrounding this event show that this was not a vindictive, malicious or retaliatory act toward Mr. Cho nor that Kristina Hensley intended to cause his death,” Evans wrote.

The defense said GPS evidence shows Hensley pulled out of Cho’s driveway and sat in the street before driving off. “There is some evidence that she did not just heartlessly plow over Mr. Cho, but sat in the street for more than 9 minutes before leaving his home.”

Evans and Upton said Hensley then drove 1.3 miles to the nearest open and lit establishment — a Shell gas station — and stopped. Hensley has shown emotional trauma and remorse for her actions, according to her attorneys.

Letters asking the judge to show leniency for Hensley have been sent by family members, including her oldest son, her mother, Pam Birch; and stepfather, Douglas, who live in Middletown.

According to the prosecutor’s office, numerous letters from Cho’s friends and loved ones also have been sent to Spaeth. Cho, a University of Cincinnati graduate, worked as a server at Sammy’s Gourmet Burgers and Beer in Blue Ash.

Last month, a wrongful death lawsuit asking for $3 million in damages was filed by Cho’s father, In Chae Cho, against Hensley, State Auto Insurance Companies and Allied Communications Network (doing business as Naughty Bodies).

The suit filed by attorney Gary Franke of Cincinnati seeks damages for reasonable and necessary funeral expenses, mental anguish and a loss of Cho’s support and services, according to Butler County court documents.

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