Charles Couch’s criminal record caught up to him Wednesday when a judge imprisoned him for half a century, the maximum punishment for leading police on pursuit last July through Homosassa that ended in a crash that killed a 77-year-old man and hospitalized his wife.
Circuit Court Judge Richard “Ric” Howard assured Couch at the Spring Hill man’s sentencing that he would be the last judge to punish the 10-time convicted felon, whose criminal record dates back to 1992 in Michigan.
“I’m sure you’ve had other judges say, ‘Someday, you’re going to find a judge that’s just had it with you,’” Howard told 39-year-old Couch. “That someday is today.”
Howard ordered Couch to serve 50 years in prison as a habitual felony offender on charges connected to a July 2018 car chase with Citrus County Sheriff’s Office deputies, and causing a collision that killed 77-year-old Martin Jacobs and injured his 75-year-old wife Shelia.
Couch’s prison term will run concurrent to the five-year sentence he’s been serving since last November for violating sex-offender reporting requirements in Hernando County.
Couch pleaded no contest in June to charges of leaving the scene of a vehicular homicide, aggravated fleeing and eluding that resulted in damage or injury, habitually driving without a valid license and failing to appear to court.
Assistant State Attorney Blake Shore announced Wednesday he would no longer be prosecuting Couch for not showing up to his August hearing because Couch was at a drug treatment facility.
After hearing the judge’s sentence, Couch turned to supporters in the gallery and said goodbye before bailiffs led him out of the courtroom. Couch’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Ed Spaight, said his office would be handling the appeal.
Martin and Shelia Jacobs, who had known each other since they were 17 and 15, respectively, were one month away from celebrating their 58th wedding anniversary when a light-blue Lincoln driven by Couch struck their vehicle head-on the afternoon of July 3 on Homosassa Trail.
“I touched my husband’s hand and we sweated immediately,” Shelia Jacobs testified Wednesday. “I asked him if he was OK and he just groaned.”
Couch ran from the crash scene as pursuing deputy Jonathan Holtzhouse was closing in.
Holtzhouse testified Wednesday he had tried to pull Couch over at around noon on U.S. 19 near Grover Cleveland Boulevard, but Couch drove away at speeds of up to between 90 and 100 mph through a construction zone on the congested highway.
Couch told Howard he was trying to outrun deputies because he wanted to get high. He was also wanted by authorities out of Hernando County.
Holtzhouse tailed Couch as he drove onto Grover Cleveland Boulevard, northbound onto Pittsburg Avenue and then eastbound on Homosassa Trail, where the crash happened.
Holtzhouse said he stayed with the Jacobs while other deputies apprehended Couch inside a nearby business.
Responders airlifted the couple to Ocala Regional Medical Center’s intensive care unit. Shelia Jacobs was released from the hospital. Martin Jacobs died July 15.
“His life was his family ... he was the most loyal person you could ever meet,” Shelia said of her late husband. “We got old together ... but not old enough.”
Shelia Jacobs pleaded with Howard not to hold back in sentencing Couch, a recommendation echoed by other testifying family members and Shore.
“I just want this guy to suffer,” she said. “I know he didn’t mean to kill him, but he ruined so many peoples’ lives.”
Spaight’s mental health expert testified that Couch has “a narcissistic indulgence” of drug abuse that started when he was exposed to substances by a relative at age 10, and suffered a possible head injury in an unconfirmed vehicle crash when he was 11 that may have contributed to his impulsive behavior.
Couch apologized to the Jacobs, and attributed his reckless driving to him blacking out as a result of his drug withdrawals.
“I’m not a monster like they claim me to be,” he told Howard. “That was one of those episodes.”