Patrick Walsh was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison for the DWI crash that killed two people and injured five in September 2011. Walsh pleaded guilty Nov. 15 to two counts of involuntary manslaughter and five counts of second-degree assault.
“Unlike Mr. Brueggen and Mr. McLemore, you will have an opportunity to reclaim your life. They won’t have that opportunity,” St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Michael T. Jamison told Walsh before he handed down the sentence.
Police estimated that Walsh was driving about 100 mph when his car rear-ended the Chevy Tahoe, which flipped several times. Steven Brueggen, 38, of Florissant, and Michael McLemore, 37, of O’Fallon, were killed.
‘Burned in my brain’
Before sentencing, Nicole Stanner, who was driving the Chevy Tahoe told how the collision impacted her life. Stanner, of O’Fallon, was McLemore’s girlfriend.
“That night will forever be burned in my brain,” said Stanner, who had served as designated driver for the group in the Tahoe.
She said, “The physical pain along with the image of seeing the carnage of the accident and the horror of helplessly watching the emergency medical team try to save Michael and Steve’s lives, and the dark, stifling words from one EMT that ‘We have two code blacks’ still makes my heart break and my stomach knot.”
‘Always be proud of yourselves’
Lindsay Hauze, 30, told how her close-knit family misses her brother Steve Brueggen during birthdays, holidays and family get-togethers.
Hauze also told how Brueggen’s students at Parkwood Elementary made flowers with notes on them telling why they loved Brueggen, their physical education teacher.
“I often read the notes on those flowers,” Hauze said.
She noted the school hung a plaque up near the gym with Brueggen’s photo with something he used to tell his students: “Always be proud of yourselves.”
Another of Brueggen’s sisters, Shannon Bensing, said she replays the accident over and over in her mind despite the fact she wasn’t there.
“It’s pure torture for me. I can’t let it go. It’s like I’m pressing the play button inside my head over and over again,” she said.
“Being the mother of three, I can’t imagine how painful it is for my parents to lose a child,” Bensing said. “My Dad said, ‘I lost my best friend.’ ”
After the sentencing, Bensing said she was satisfied with the sentence Walsh received.
“I think it’s enough time for him to think about what he did and to learn from it,” Bensing said. “I truly hope that when he’s released that he will be a better person.”
Praying for forgiveness
Before sentencing, Walsh read a statement in which he apologized to family members.
“I pray every day for forgiveness from God,” Walsh said. “I want each of you to know how sorry I am. I’m sorry for you pain and suffering and I’m sorry for your loss.”
Walsh was sentenced to 10 years for each count of involuntary manslaughter and seven years for each of five counts of second-degree assault. The sentences will be served concurrently. He already has served about 17 months in jail, which will be counted as time served.
Assistant prosecuting attorney Alan Key said 10 years is as heavy a sentence as he’s seen in a DWI and involuntary manslaughter case.
“Part of it was that he had a prior DWI, and the fact that he killed two people and injured five,” Key said.
He said that by state statute, Walsh must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
For more crime information on O'Fallon Patch, see the following articles:
- Updated: Drunk Driver in Crash That Killed Maryland Heights Teacher to be Sentenced
- Sentencing Postponed in Double Manslaughter Case
- Parkwood Elementary Teacher Killed in Car Crash