Crown Point man sentenced for crash that killed uncle
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent February 14, 2013 3:56PM
Updated: March 17, 2013 6:18PM
A Crown Point man with a prior drunken driving conviction was sentenced to four years after pleading guilty to reckless homicide in a 2010 crash that killed his uncle.
Daniel Garret Smith, 29, said in a letter read aloud for Lake Superior Court Judge Salvador Vasquez that the night of the crash forever changed his life. As he lay in a hospital bed awaiting surgery, he asked over and over the condition of his uncle, Jerry Smith. A nurse finally told him his uncle didn’t survive the crash.
Smith said he couldn’t sleep for months because of nightmares. Since the crash, he quit drinking and has been in therapy.
On Aug. 7, 2010, Smith was driving on Interstate 65 in Crown Point when he crashed his vehicle into a ditch along the road. Jerry Smith, who left behind a wife and three children, was a passenger in Daniel Smith’s pickup.
Smith’s widow, Barbara, said she was in agreement with the terms of her nephew’s plea agreement, which called for him to serve two years in the Lake County sheriff’s work release program, followed by two years on probation.
Vasquez said he had a difficult time reconciling the fact that Smith’s driving killed a family member against the backdrop that Smith has a prior drunken driving conviction. “You should have learned from your prior mistakes,” Vasquez said.
Defense attorney Tom Mullins, who represented Smith with defense attorney Marce Gonzalez Jr., noted the state had evidentiary issues in the case – Smith’s blood was drawn more than three hours after the crash.
Barbara McConnell, chief deputy prosecutor, said the agreement was the product of years of negotiations and that she weighed all factors in the case, including problems with proving Smith’s level of intoxication.
Vasquez said he would accept the plea agreement in light of Smith’s strong family support, the fact he’s employed, is in counseling and has gone six years without an operating while intoxicated arrest.
Smith must wear a bracelet that detects alcohol consumption for the first year of his probation. In addition, his driver’s license will be suspended for two years.