John P. Hixon, right, along with attorney Cliff Valentine, left, exits the courtroom Tuesday after pleading no contest to reckless homicide in connection to the 2016 death of Ghouse Gulam at a Honda Research and Development facility.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Mac Cordell)
The man accused of killing a Honda contract worker has been convicted.
John P. Hixon, 51, of Columbus and formerly of Bellefontaine, pleaded no contest Tuesday to one count of reckless homicide. Common Pleas Court Judge Don Fraser found Hixon guilty.
The conviction was connected to the Jan. 4, 2016 death of Ghouse Gulam.
Hixon did not look up as he pleaded no contest to the charge. A no contest plea is an alternative to a guilty plea. In a no contest plea, the defendant neither disputes nor admits to doing the crime, but stipulates there is enough evidence to be convicted. A no contest plea has the same primary legal effects as a guilty plea, but cannot be used against a defendant in later civil or criminal proceedings.
Fraser ordered a presentence investigation and set sentencing for Jan. 18. Hixon could face as many as five years in prison.
Gulam, 61, of Lori Lane in Delaware, died as a result of “massive head trauma” according to the coroner’s investigator Jim Fish
Gulam was a contract worker at the Ohio Center, a Honda Research and Development facility.
Gulam reported to work just before 6 a.m. on the day he died. He was walking inside a lighted crosswalk on a causeway, intended for pedestrians, between buildings on the campus.
Hixon was using the forklift to move a trash bucket when he hit Gulam in the head.
“John Hixon continued to drive the forklift forward, approximately 20 feet, dragging Mr. Gulam’s body under the forklift. Mr. Hixon suspected he had ran over a bag of trash,” Union County Prosecutor Dave Phillips told the judge.
Phillips said Hixon was reckless in operating the forklift. He said Hixon was driving at an unsafe speed, did not stop at the stop signs, drove even though he could not see and failed to yield at the breezeway even though he knew workers were coming into the area.
On-site emergency personnel responded immediately along with Liberty Township Fire personnel. He was taken to Memorial Hospital where he died. Gulam was declared dead at 7:35 a.m.
According to training manuals, the forklift was to be driven backwards if the front load obstructed the view forward. Additionally, the tines of the forklift were too high according to the manual.
Hixon told officials he had stopped at the cross walk, looked both ways and honked his horn before crossing.
Phillips said witnesses reported that Gulam was within the crosswalk and was walking appropriately. The witness said they never heard a warning horn, though Hixon said he blew it before going through the crosswalk
Witnesses said Hixon was to be off work in two minutes and was “in a hurry” because he did not want to wait for a delivery vehicle.
“Mr. Hixon was observed on video to have ran six other stop signs that date,” Phillips said.
The prosecutor said witnesses were prepared to testify that Hixon had been reckless in the past and had been notified of the dangerous behavior.
Phillips has aid he does not believe Hixon, a contractor and not a Honda employee, was impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time he allegedly hit the victim.
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