RILEY COUNTY, Kan. (WIBW)- Kim Neidenthal can’t believe that the man who crossed over into oncoming traffic on K-18 and killed her son and his fiancee last year will spend only 60 days in jail.
"I'm in total shock and disbelief. He killed two people. He should have done something besides 60 days. I'm angry with that judge," she told WIBW.
Miles Theurer’s blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit after a night out at the strip club with his friends when he caused the head-on collision that claimed the lives of Michael Stanley and Elizabeth Young, an engaged couple from Ogden who had just bought a home together and were planning their future.
Theurer, a graduate student in Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, previously entered pleas of no contest to two counts of Involuntary Manslaughter While Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol in a plea agreement with the state.
The accident occurred on May 14, 2012 on K-18 near Scenic Drive in Riley County, two miles west of the city limits of Manhattan. Due to road construction on the highway, traffic was reduced to two lanes with opposing traffic traveling directly next to each other.
The crash involved two cars- a 2003 Chevy Silverado which was occupied by four people and driven by Theurer and a 2001 Buick LeSabre which was occupied by Young and Stanley.
Prosecutors say Theurer's Chevy Silverado truck crossed over the center line and was going the wrong way eastbound in the westbound lanes of K-18. Another passing driver spotted Theurer heading the wrong way in traffic and tried to catch his attention by flashing his lights, honking and waving his arm out of his window.
Theurer ended up striking Young's car (that was going west on K-18) head on.
Young, a mother of two, and Stanley, a father of two, died at the scene. Their cause of death was severe trauma they received in the crash.
The state asked for prison time in the case, around 41 months with concurrent sentences on Theurer's charges. But Riley County District Court Judge John Bosch departed from the state's sentencing guidelines during Theurer's sentencing hearing Monday, June 17, 2013 and gave the K-State grad student two months, saying he was impressed with the fact that Theurer was a go-getter and good student. Theurer will also serve 36 months probation after getting out of jail. Bosch ordered Theurer to speak at schools and churches about the dangers of drunk driving.
Neidenthal said Judge Bosch read letters he received from those who support Theurer during the hearing.
"It was almost like he was re-victimizing us. As he was reading the letters from the different professors and high school teachers and all of his friends and buddies, the judge actually had to take a break because he was crying. It was like my son and Liz never even existed and their lives weren’t worth anything. The victims here are Mike and Liz and the people they left behind," she said.
"I went there thinking he was going to get 41 months in prison and do his time. He’s the one who chose to drink and drive. He is an outstanding person but he did wrong. If I did the same thing, I would have to do my time. I did something wrong and I’d have to pay for it. And he doesn’t have to do that. He’s just spending 60 days in jail and then he gets to go back to school in August and carry on with his life," she added.
She says it doesn’t send a good message to others who get behind the wheel after drinking.
"He should have received the minimum sentence. It was a slap. I’ve heard of people who have done minor things and have gotten at least 30 days in jail. So basically, he got 30 days in jail for killing Liz and 30 days in jail for killing my son, Mike. And then he gets to go on with his life. I’m outraged that the judge could get away with doing that, not even following the law," she told WIBW.
In contrast, Riley County District Court Judge David Stutzman sentenced another driver to around three years in prison this week after huffing and getting behind the wheel, causing a Manhattan accident that injured three people.
Officials say 18-year-old Corey Monley was behind the wheel of his 1994 Honda Accord in November 2012 when he side-swiped another Honda Accord near 8th Street and went into oncoming traffic, striking a Nissan Versa head-on.
Stephanie Mendoza, 19, was the driver of the Versa. She received minor injuries and refused medical treatment but two of the passengers inside her car were taken to the hospital. Reports indicate that 26-year-old Jeanette Galan was a front seat passenger and two-year-old Bella Lara was in the back seat.
They were transported to Mercy Regional Health Center in Manhattan. Bella Lara’s injuries were listed as “non-incapacitating” but Jeanette Galan was airlifted to Via Christi Hospital in Wichita with what police say were significant neck and pelvic injuries.
Corey Monley was arrested at the scene for Aggravated Battery, Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and/or Alcohol and Abusing Toxic Vapors (Huffing).
Meanwhile, prosecutors are appealing Miles Theurer’s sentence. The Kansas Court of Appeals will ultimately decide whether there was a basis for Bosch's decision to depart from the sentencing guidelines.
Kim Neidenthal says she to see the appeal go through, which she says could take a few years.
She would also like to speak to Miles in person and go with him when he speaks at schools, colleges and churches so that people can get two different perspectives.
"I want to be able to talk about the victims’ side- what we have to go through- so that way they have two different stories," she said.
She is also getting involved in Mothers Against Drunk Driving. She is forced to constantly drive by the house her son and Liz Young bought just 10 days before the accident and routinely passes by the scene of the accident on K-18 where her family placed a cross, conjuring up memories of her son.
"Nothing is ever going to bring my son back. I think about him every day."
She said her family and Liz Young's family both have civil suits pending against Miles Theurer.