A Columbus, Indiana man accused of a hit-and-run death last year which killed an Indian American engineer and severely injured his wife, was found guilty April 9 by a 12-member jury.
Michael DeMaio, 37, accused of killing Anshul Sharma who was walking in a bike lane with his wife Samira Bhardwaj on March 26, 2017, was found guilty of all four charges against him — two felony counts of leaving the scene of an accident and causing a death when operating a motor vehicle with a controlled substance in his system. DeMaio was also found guilty of causing serious bodily injury when operating a motor vehicle with a controlled substance in his system.
DeMaio had testified during his trial that he was sleepy and closed his eyes momentarily as he swerved into the bike lane and struck the couple. He told police that his vehicle must have drifted off the road and that he woke up when he realized he had collided with something.
He will be sentenced May 3 in Bartholomew County, Indiana District Court. Penalties on the felonies range up to 16 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for the most serious Level 3 offenses, and a low of six months in prison and a $10,000 fine for the Level 6 offense, the least serious among felonies in Indiana, as reported by The Republic newspaper. DeMaio is being held in Bartholomew County Jail until he is sentenced.
Toxicology reports released in July 2017 showed DeMaio had methamphetamine in his system at the time of the accident, court records stated. He had tested negative for alcohol intoxication after the accident, but failed a number of sobriety tests that provided probable cause to arrest him, police said during the investigation. DeMaio told police that he left the scene and walked back to his house to make phone calls as he was unsure of what to do.
Bartholomew County Coroner Clayton Nolting ruled that Sharma’s death was a homicide, and said the engineer died from blunt force trauma to his head and upper cervical spine. Samira Bhardwaj suffered several injuries and has undergone at least two surgeries.
“It’s been a year, and the family is still processing this,” Ketan Bhardwaj, the brother of Samira Bhardwaj, told The Republic after the trial concluded. “Nothing can bring Anshul back.”
Ketan Bhardwaj said his sister had initially been listed as a witness in the trial, but was not well enough to travel from India where she is still recuperating. “As for Anshul’s family, his mom and dad are still trying to grasp the reality of this. They are still facing issues,” he said. “The family is devastated.”
Ketan Bhardwaj said he would most likely attend the sentencing in May and submit a statement that could be read during the hearing.