A Bainbridge man was given a 20-year sentence Friday after pleading guilty to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and causing the death of a Greencastle teen.
Jeremy Wayne Crowder, 24, sat in the Putnam Superior Courtroom Friday and listened as family and friends of the late Ricky Johnston reminded him of what they had lost in the car accident that killed the 17-year-old on May 21.
Mary Williams, Ricky's aunt, informed the court that the family had suffered a tragic loss on the day Ricky died, and even though the family has tried to go back to the way things used to be, they know they never can.
Blaine Johnston, Ricky's sister, described her life as Ricky's sister and friend. Amidst her tears, she explained how hard it was for her to walk by her brother's school locker and not see him there or hear him across the hall saying "Yeah, dude."
Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter presented photos of Ricky to his mother Tina Johnston as state's evidence. These photos ranged from Ricky as a child all the way up to his junior year in high school. They also showed a slide presentation of Ricky's life through photos.
Ricky's mother, Tina, also spoke about her loss. She said that on the day Ricky was born, she had so many hopes and dreams for him. Dreams like graduating and going to college, getting his first job and raising his own family.
"Ricky never knew a stranger, he believed everyone deserved a chance," Tina said in reference to why Ricky would allow Crowder to drive his car the night of the crash.
Tina said that the Friday before Ricky died, he had one more week of his junior year left and was looking forward to the summer and starting back as a senior. Johnston had no idea that was the last time she would see her son alive. It was on the night of his sister's birthday.
Crowder's defense attorney Justin Long asked Tina about Crowder's demeanor during a meeting at the Putnam County Jail. Present at this meeting were Tina, Crowder, Long, Bookwalter and Sheriff Mark Frisbie.
Tina said that she felt Crowder did not show any remorse in the death of her son and when he was talking it sounded like he was "faking his sobs."
Crowder's family and friends also had the opportunity to inform the court about Crowder's childhood. Robert Crowder, Jeremy's older brother, said his brother is a good man, and that the divorce of his parents was hard on him. He also said that his brother started indulging in alcoholic drinks around 19 or 20 years old.
Crowder had been arrested for driving under the influence in Montgomery County and violated his probation there, according to Bookwalter. He is also wanted in Vigo County for violation of probation for theft.
Crowder's mother, Barbara, said that she has watched her son grow up to be a man and take on his responsibilities. She also said she never knew her he had an alcohol problem.
Both Barbara and Robert informed the court that Crowder expressed remorse for his actions on that night. Robert said that when Crowder was released from prison, he would also have a place to live and a job.
Crowder took the opportunity to inform the court as to the events that happened that night. Crowder said that he had been drinking after he got off work and was headed to play pool when he ran into Ricky's brother Michael. The two of them went to a party.
Crowder said he went home alone and ran into Ricky, who was waiting for his brother. The two of them started talking about cars and motors, and decided to head to Parke County to see a car that Crowder was considering buying. The two met up with Crowder's friend and went to his house, which was next door to where the car was located.
Crowder said Ricky informed him that he drank earlier at a party on the southside of Greencastle. Later Ricky became ill, and both Crowder and Ricky were kicked out of the friend's home.
According to Crowder, Ricky attempted to drive home, but became ill again as he sat down in the driver seat.
"He asked me if I could drive," Crowder said in his testimony.
Crowder said he took the back way home instead of going on U.S. 36. He said he did not remember what caused the accident, but after exiting the wrecked vehicle, he left the scene to find help.
Bookwalter asked Crowder about one of the conditions for probation from the Montgomery County judge. According to Bookwalter, Crowder was not to have any alcoholic drinks.
Crowder agreed to this and the fact that he kept drinking. He also agreed to the fact that he did not have a driver's license.
Bookwalter also asked if the reason why Crowder took the back roads was because he did not want the police to catch him driving under the influence to which Crowder agreed.
Crowder expressed how sorry he was for his actions the night of the accident and that by pleading guilty he was trying to bring the family closure.
Crowder said that he sees this experience as a way to talk to teenagers about drinking and driving and the consequences of such actions. He said it has also taught him never to touch alcohol again.
The probation office recommended Crowder be sentenced to 20 years in prison with 10 years executed. Eight of those years would be in the department of corrections and two years in home detention. He would also serve another 10 years of probation to complete the sentence.
Bookwalter recommended that Crowder be sentenced to 20 years in prison with 18 years executed and two years probation.
Long asked that Judge Robert Lowe consider the fact that this is Crowder's first violent offense.
Lowe sentenced Crowder to 20 years in prison with 12 years executed.
Ten years of that sentence will be served in the department of corrections and two years on home detention.
He will also serve another eight years on probation to complete the sentence.
Crowder will also have to pay the Johnston family restitution of around $17,000, which he will begin to repay once he is released from prison.