Impaired driver in fatal crash in Greenfield gets 4 to 6½ years

  • George T. Cortina, 63, of Turners Falls, was sentenced on Tuesday to four to six and a half years in jail after killing 41-year-old Deerfield native Jonathan Rohrs and Rohrs’ dog in a 2020 drug-induced car crash on the Route 2 bypass in Greenfield. SCREENSHOT

  • Deerfield native Jonathan Rohrs, 41, of Acton, was killed in a vehicle crash on Oct. 4, 2020. LEGACY.COM

Staff Writer
Published: 1/18/2022 4:00:46 PM

GREENFIELD — The Turners Falls man who killed a 41-year-old Deerfield native and that man’s dog in a 2020 drug-induced car crash will spend the next four to six and a half years behind bars.

George T. Cortina, 63, pleaded guilty in Franklin County Superior Court last week to motor vehicle homicide while operating under the influence of drugs, operating under the influence of drugs causing serious bodily injury, a second offense of operating under the influence of drugs and possession of a Class A substance (heroin).

On Tuesday, Judge Michael Callan sentenced Cortina to four to six years in the Massachusetts Correctional Institution-Cedar Junction in Walpole for the charges of operating under the influence and six months at the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction in Greenfield for the drug charge. These sentences will run concurrently. The state Department of Correction will calculate how many days of credit Cortina will receive for time served since his arrest in October 2020.

Cortina will also serve two years probation for the second OUI offense as part of a plea deal.

According to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, the Greenfield Police Department responded to a two-vehicle crash on the Route 2 bypass in Greenfield near the 51.6 mile-marker at roughly 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 4, 2020. It was determined a Ford Explorer driven by Cortina had crossed the center line into the westbound lane and struck a Toyota Yaris driven by Jonathan Rohrs, 41, of Acton. The collision killed Rohrs and his dog, Coco. Rohrs grew up in Deerfield and was visiting family at the time.

Defense attorney Timothy Flynn took the opportunity during Tuesday’s virtual court session to address concerns Callan raised about Cortina during the Jan. 11 change-of-plea hearing. Callan had said he felt Cortina was “cavalier” during the hearing, responding to questions from Callan with answers of “Nope” and “Yup.” Also, Cortina had mentioned he had just woken up for the hearing.

But Flynn explained his client is on medications, and reinstated COVID-19 safety protocols at the House of Correction has made it more difficult for him to communicate with Cortina. Callan said he found Cortina to always be “present and alert and appropriate,” and Callan had Flynn reassure him his client understood the rights he had given up by pleading guilty.

Rohrs’ girlfriend, Chris Williams, read a victim impact statement on Jan. 11, speaking to her boyfriend’s intelligence and exploratory spirit.

“I’ve lost Jon forever, and no sentence today can atone for that,” she read through tears.

Williams said she feels additional charges — including animal cruelty, as Coco was 10 years old and in perfect health when she was killed in the crash — should have been applied. The prosecution dismissed charges of manslaughter while operating under the influence and motor vehicle homicide by reckless operation. But Assistant District Attorney Joseph Webber, who prosecuted the case for the state, defended the plea deal and said the decision was not made lightly.

Rohrs’ brother, Christopher, submitted a victim impact statement he read to the court on Jan. 11. He said Jonathan slept at their mother’s bedside in hospice every night before she died of cancer in April 2020, six months before the crash. Christopher Rohrs said his brother had driven to Stop & Shop in Greenfield to get groceries for their father before heading home to Acton.

“I lost the last piece of the family I grew up with,” he said.

According to an update on the advocacy website jonathanrohrs.com, Rohrs attended Deerfield Academy and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he studied mechanical engineering. He worked at MathWorks as a software engineer at the time of his death. A private ceremony was held in Torrington, Connecticut.

In Rohrs’ memory, it was asked that people help advocate for Route 2 safety improvements, at jonathanrohrs.com/advocacy. Donations in Rohrs’ memory can be made to MADD at P.O. Box 141, Danvers, MA 01923.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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