OWI homicide gets probation
Schmidt to spend one year in jail
By Robert Cloud
The woman who killed 18-year-old Dylan Thorne in a drunken driving crash on July 19, 2012, was placed on 10 years of probation.
Heather Schmidt, 40, New London, appeared before Waupaca County Circuit Court Judge Raymond Huber for sentencing Wednesday, Sept. 30.
She had entered a plea of no contest to a felony charge of homicide by the intoxicated use of a vehicle on Aug. 10.
Huber imposed, then stayed execution of a five-year prison sentence before placing Schmidt on probation.
As a condition of her probation, Huber ordered Schmidt to serve one year in county jail. About 11 months will be served with work release, while 40 full days will be served over the 10 years of probation.
“The last five weeks of the sentence will be served each and every Christmas Eve and Christmas Day,” Huber said.
Schmidt will also serve full days without work release on Feb. 10, Thorne’s birthday, and July 19, the day she killed Thorne.
Huber also ordered Schmidt to pay $11,420 in restitution to Timothy and Liz Thorne, Dylan’s parents.
He revoked Schmidt’s license for five years and ordered that she maintain absolute sobriety while on probation.
“For the next 10 years, you will not consume any alcohol,” Huber said.
District Attorney John Snider earlier told the court that Schmidt had been seen drinking in public after the crash. He said Schmidt’s continued drinking “suggests a lack of sensitivity, suggests an ongoing danger.”
Snider asked that Schmidt be sentenced to five years in state prison with 10 years of extended supervision.
“No sentence is sufficient when a life is taken,” Snider said.
“She has sentenced us to life without him,” said Dylan’s mother, Liz Thorne. “I would be overjoyed to see her incarcerated for 10 years. I pray to God that she not be able to do to another young family what she did to our family.”
Dylan’s aunt, Tami Thorne, talked about how Dylan had been accepted into the criminal justice program at Fox Valley Technical College just prior to his death. She said Schmidt robbed Dylan of his life and took him from his family.
“She is able to see her children,” Tami Thorne said. “The only thing we have left is pictures.”
“Drunk driving is indiscriminate in the personal tragedy of death, injury, and suffering it levies on its victims,” Huber said, quoting from a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision. “It destroys and demoralizes personal lives and shocks society’s conscience. It has no legitimate place in our society.”
Noting that Wisconsin is the only state in the nation where a first OWI is not a criminal offense, Huber said, “In Wisconsin we are somewhat schizophrenic when we deal with drunk driving offenses.”
If Schmidt had been pulled over for drunken driving before she crossed the center line and killed Dylan Thorne, Huber said she would have faced merely a fine, AODA counseling and revocation of her licence.
Huber said he was required to follow sentencing guidelines that included the gravity of the offense, protection of the community, the defendant’s remorse and rehabilitation needs, and deterrence.
“It’s difficult to envision an offense that has more gravity than an offense that results in the loss of life,” Huber said.
The judge also noted that Schmidt was the single mother of five biological children, as well as providing emotional support to two other children. She is employed at Waupaca Foundry and has no prior drunken driving convictions.
Prior to sentencing, Schmidt’s attorney, Trey Nielsen, read a letter that he said Schmidt sent to Dylan Thorne’s parents more than two years ago.
“I am so sorry for what I have done,” the letter said. “I pray for forgiveness. I don’t expect to be forgiven. I don’t deserve to be forgiven.”