NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The South River man who struck and killed Rutgers student Chelsea Traynor with his truck in 2010 was sentenced on Monday to four years in prison.
Roger Hode, 42, pled guilty to second-degree vehicular homicide and will need to serve 85% of his sentence before being eligible for parole.
This sentencing finally concludes the tragic affair, which began just after 11 a.m. on December 9, 2010. It was then that Hode ran a red light and struck Traynor, 21, with his Ford pickup truck as she was crossing Route 18 with her bicycle at the George Street intersection.
In court, Hode admitted to speeding and ignoring the light.
He was initially charged with aggravated manslaughter – a first-degree crime that carries up to 30 years in prison. However, as we reported in March, Hode entered into a plea bargain with the Middlesex County Prosecutor to mitigate his potential prison time.
Hode told the court that he was on his way to a methadone clinic in New Brunswick when the accident occurred.
He insisted that he wasn’t high at the time of the accident, though he admitted to smoking marijuana the night before and taking methadone, a narcotic often used to prevent opiate withdrawal in addicts, according to the National Library of Medicine.
Unlike other opiates, methadone is designed to prevent withdrawal symptoms without getting the user “high” like Oxycodone or heroin might.
Hode’s attorney asked the judge to “be fair” with the sentencing, mentioning that Hode had stopped to cover Traynor with his jacket as he dialed 911.
According an article by Sue Epstein at The Star-Ledger, he was sentenced “as if it were a third-degree charge.”
The article also mentioned that Hode wept during his sentencing. He apologized to Traynor’s mother and aunt, telling them, “I hope you could find it in your hearts to forgive me some day,” and added, “I’ve been living in jail in my head since the accident.”
In response, Middlesex County Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Kuberiet read a letter written by Chelsea's mother, Jean Traynor, since she was unable to speak in that moment.
“No matter how much time Roger serves, it won’t bring Chelsea back,” the letter read. “I am so sorry for Chelsea. She had so much living and giving to do. She was the best daughter anyone could ask for.”
Kuberiet recommended that Hode “strive” to defeat his addiction over the next four years so that “he can be a productive, sober member of society."