GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (Grand Haven Tribune) - Bruce Edward Ross’ no contest plea is made for civil liability reasons, but is still treated as a guilty plea, Judge Jon Hulsing reminded the defendant during a hearing Monday morning in Ottawa County Circuit Court

The judge also emphasized the possibility of consecutive sentences in the case before accepting Ross’ plea.

Ross was driving a 1998 Jeep Cherokee south on 40th Avenue shortly before 10 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018. According to police, he pulled in front of a Harley Davison motorcycle occupied by Larry, 72, and Joyce, 67, Hein of Marne.

The motorcycle was traveling east on Cleveland Street with the right-of-way. It struck the SUV in the passenger door.  The motorcyclists were taken to Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids where they were pronounced dead from their injuries. They were both wearing helmets at the time of the crash.

Hulsing noted that the man’s blood alcohol content was .13, and that Ross had made comments at the scene that he felt “buzzed” and shouldn’t have been driving.

Ross was originally charged with two counts of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated causing death; two counts of driving while license suspended causing death; and one count each of operating while intoxicated third offense, operating without insurance, unlawful use of registration and forging a license document. Bond was set at $50,000 cash. 

The plea agreement was that Ross would plead no contest to two counts of drunk driving causing death. In exchange, all of the other charges will be dismissed at the time of sentencing.

 “I want you to understand, more likely than not, there is going to be a prison sentence imposed,” Hulsing said. “It’s likely to be a lengthy sentence.”

When Ross said he still wanted to enter his plea, a sentence day was set for March 11, and bond was revoked. Ross was taken to the Ottawa County Jail.

“It’s moving in the right direction,” said a tearful Julia Hirzel of Ohio, sister to Joyce Hein and executor of her sister’s estate.

“I know that justice is being served, but it is difficult for those who are on the outside,” she said.

“We just want to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” Hirzel said in encouraging people to fill the courtroom on the sentencing date. “We need the correct containment for someone who can’t contain himself.”

Hirzel added that she has met a lot of wonderful people in Ottawa County while this case has been processed.

“I want to protect them,” she said.

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