A Hopkins man was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday by Circuit Judge Roger Prokes on charges related to a drunken driving incident that claimed the lives of thee people and injured three others following a Halloween-weekend party in 2011.
Scott R. Woods, Hopkins, who was 22 years old at the time of the wreck, earlier pleaded guilty to two felony counts of manslaughter and three charges of felony assault.
His lead attorney, Peter Berger, told the court several times that Woods entered the guilty pleas against the advice of counsel and repeatedly expressed regret, sorrow and remorse over the result of his actions.
Prokes apparently took those arguments into consideration following several hours of emotional testimony by friends and family members of the victims, many of whom called for a maximum sentence.
Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rice asked the court to sentence Woods to 30 years behind bars, telling the judge that a computerized driving monitor inside the defendant's pickup truck showed he was driving 92 mph with the foot-feed pushed to the floor.
According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Woods was eastbound on Highway 246 just east of Hopkins in the 2003 Chevrolet crew-cab when he veered off the south shoulder of the road, overcorrected, and then ran off the north edge of the pavement.
The truck overturned and caught fire. All seven occupants — none of whom were wearing a seatbelt — were ejected.
Following the wreck, Woods was found to have a blood-alcohol content of .147, or nearly twice the legal limit for driving.
Benjamin T. McIntyre, 22, Hopkins, and Chrystal N. Olerich, 18, Lake View, Iowa, died at the scene of the wreck. A third victim, Joshua E. Bix, 21, was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Severely injured were Jordan L. Breeding, 19, Hopkins, who was taken by helicopter to Heartland Regional Medical Center in St. Joseph, and Samantha L. Weed, 18, Bedford, Iowa, who was flown to a hospital in Omaha, Neb.
A sixth passenger, Kaley L. Folkerts, 19, Bedford, suffered minor injuries, as did Woods, who refused medical treatment at the scene.
Family members of the victims on Monday cited the emotional anguish they felt at losing young loved ones who should have had decades of life before them.
At first overcome with emotion and unable to speak, Chrystal Olerich's father, John Olerich, recalled his daughter as a popular, outgoing young woman who was passionate about volleyball.
"She always had a smile on her face, and she was loved by the whole family," Olerich said, wiping away tears. "Nothing will ever bring her back, but Scott needs to be held accountable."
Also testifying was Miranda Oehrke, the cousin of John Bix, who was also killed. Oehrke urged the judge to be lenient and perhaps sentence Woods to some type of community service. She said making him spend "the best years of his life in prison" would accomplish nothing.
Page 2 of 2 - "If Scott can do something to keep other families from going through this pain, then that's what we need to do," she said.