Year in county jail for drunk driver who killed motorcyclist

Everything portraying the frustration and uselessness in efforts to curb drunk driving in Minnesota was on display in a courtroom in Le Center Monday when Kimberly Stangler got a year in jail for killing a motorcyclist last October.

If the prosecutor had his way, she could have received a maximum of 57 months in prison, which is still a pretty light loss of freedom for killing another person, but the judge was in a tough spot, as reported by the Mankato Free Press.

Judge Mark Vandelist said he couldn’t give Stangler a 48-month prison sentence and a lengthy probation under Minnesota law.

So he opted for a year in the county jail, a 30-day jail term in each of the subsequent five years on the anniversary of her crime, community service to speak publicly about drunk driving, 10 years probation, and thousands of dollars in restitution to the family of Ed Lipscomb, who was 65 years old and out for a motorcycle ride to see the fall colors when he met up with Stangler.

Despite the lengthy probation, Judge Vandelist made clear Stangler was getting a break.

“I know you regret your actions ” Vandelist told Stangler. “You asked me to give you an opportunity for redemption and I have with this sentence.”

Members of Lipscomb’s family said the sentence was fair. Earlier, they told the court what Stangler’s drinking had cost them, the Free Press says.

“He had a way of filling the room with laughter and joy,” said niece Stacy Lipscomb.

“Your selfish decision took away my ally, my rock and a dad figure,” said nephew Jason Matheson. “Your selfishness took away a really good man.”

Former colleague Pat Pierce said Ed earned several patents and was instrumental in development of numerous automotive electronic diagnostic tools at Bosch Service Solutions in Owatonna.

Cathie and Sean said they’ve been dealing with crippling depression, guilt and anxiety since the loss of their husband and father.

“I had to cancel all those plans that he had spent months making,” Cathie said of their winter travel intentions. “I was not going to go anywhere without him. I wanted to stay home in my house where no one could hurt me.”

“My family and I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome,” Lipscomb’s son, Sean, said. “It was clear the judge put a lot of thought behind it and was sincere.”

Stangler may well come up with the words that make a difference in a future speech to people about the perils of drunk driving and, besides, harsh sentences haven’t done much to stem the carnage on Minnesota’s roads from people who drink and drive.

With the sentence, Stangler may find redemption and forgiveness. But the broader reality is Minnesota’s drunk driving problem will continue and more innocents like Ed Lipscomb are going to die.