Prison not enough for woman whose reckless driving killed friend, judge says
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent September 17, 2012 2:12PM
Updated: October 19, 2012 6:13AM
VALPARAISO — Prison time wouldn’t be enough punishment for the Kouts woman who killed a 16-year-old friend after the new 2008 Mustang she drove went airborne for almost 80 feet, according to Porter Superior Judge Roger Bradford.
With the maximum three-year sentence Bradford could give Alyssa R. Brown, 22, she could be out in less than a year with credit for good behavior and completing college, according to his calculations for her July plea to Class D felony criminal recklessness with a motor vehicle inflicting serious bodily injury.
“I want more than that,” Bradford said Tuesday, adding that he spent weeks mulling on an appropriate possible sentence.
So Brown will serve 30 days of her three years talking to small groups in high schools about the consequences of her driving 76 mph on County Road 500S in October 2008 and going airborne off a railroad track embankment.
Bradford stressed that her presentation to students shouldn’t focus on what the crash meant to her but should include the effect on the family of victim Kelly Mercaldo, whose parents cried through victim’s statements.
Brown must work on that presentation while in Porter County Jail, and her presentation will have to be approved by her probation officer, who will oversee her for the remainder of the three-year sentence.
The jail sentence begins Dec. 15, after finals at Purdue University North Central, and ends Jan. 13, so Brown can rejoin school.
“I want you to be able to describe to these young people the sound of the jail door closing behind you,” Bradford said. “I want something valuable to come out of this.”
He added that Brown’s family would lose her for the holidays, as Mercaldo’s family lost her for holidays.
Any restitution is best handled by the civil suit against Brown, Bradford said.
The roughly hour-and-a-half sentencing hearing included Brown’s therapist, a church deacon, her mother and her sister, who testified to the changes the death brought to Brown, including suicidal tendencies, remorse and self-imposed exile at home.
The victim’s father, Vic Mercaldo, had to be led out of the courtroom after sobbing through his statement.
“You have no idea what it’s like telling two little girls their sister’s not coming home again,” he said, adding that at their recent 10th birthday party, one twin cried in her room because her sister wasn’t there.
Her mother, Nancy Brooks, said the family believes Brown lies about what she remembers and why it happened.
In her statement to the court, Brown said it wasn’t about showing off but getting Mercaldo to her boyfriend, and Brown said her last words were to go faster.
A passenger said Brown “burned rubber” when they left Michigan City and told them they’d see what the car could do.