Amidst a packed courtroom Thursday afternoon, Putnam Circuit Court Judge Matt Headley sentenced Cody Wright to 14 years for the car crash that killed the man's girlfriend.
Wright was convicted for his role in the death of a 17-year-old Brandee Siples.
On Nov. 17, 2007, Wright and Siples were returning to Brazil from a trip to Greencastle. Wright was initially clocked by police in his white Chevrolet Camaro just west of Putnamville on US 40 at 117 mph. By the time Wright was clocked again just outside the Indiana State Police Post, he was recorded at 129 mph.
ISP Master Trooper David Furnas was present to testify at the hearing. Furnas was the officer who pursued Wright. He stated that he could not catch Wright due to his police car shutting off at speeds of 130 mph, however he kept him in sight.
On Thursday, the courtroom was filled with the voices from the recording of Furnas' transmission to dispatch during the chase.
According to Furnas, the pursuit covered approximately 10 miles in four minutes. He also stated that when Wright's car went airborne on C.R. 900 West, better known as County Line Road between Putnam and Clay counties, his car was around 20 feet in the air and began to turn over before hitting a tree.
One of Wright's former roommates, Robert Blystone, stated that he knew Wright re-wired the toggle switch on the car so the computer would not know how fast the car was traveling. Prior to being changed, the car would not go over 110 mph, Blystone said. Following the switch, the car proved to go about 145 mph when Wright took it on I-70 between S.R. 59 and S.R. 46, Blystone said.
Terry Siples, Brandee's father, took the stand and told the courtroom about the former relationship Wright had with his daughter and family.
"I trusted Cody with my daughter's life and you can see where that left me," Sipels said. "I told him every time she was in the car with him that he'd better not speed. I miss my little girl very badly."
When Pam Siples, Brandee's mother, took the stand, she spoke about how much Brandee loved Wright. She then looked Wright in the eyes and said, "You can't tell me when you were going 130 mph that Brandee wasn't screaming. You could have stopped and let her out.
"I still go in her room every morning to wake her up, but she's not there," Pam continued.
Pam made the recommendation to the court that Wright receive 17 years.
"That's what he owes me," she said.
Following her request, Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter informed her that the maximum sentence Wright could serve in prison was eight years. Pam replied, "OK, so eight years and nine years probation."
Meanwhile, the defense was attempting to establish Wright's good character by talking about his employment record.
Defense witnesses included Troy Page and Bill Kinley, both of Page's IGA in Brazil where Wright has been employed. Also former managers of Wright at the Brazil Wendy's spoke. All stood up and said Wright had an outstanding work ethic and called him a "great worker" with "a big heart."
Melissa Langdon, a Correctional Case Worker at the Putnamville Correctional Facility, said "Prison will not benefit Mr. Wright. All it will do is make him a hardened person because he has to be able to stand up for himself in prison."
When Wright took the stand, he spoke about his affection for Brandee and the Siples'.
"She was the best girlfriend," Wright said. "For 10 months I saw her every day and she would sit with me when I was in the garage working on cars in 20-degree weather. I miss her all the time."
Prosecutor Bookwalter said that Wright lied during the meeting in his office with the Siples when he told them the car could not go over 117 mph.
During the closing statements, Bookwalter said that Wright had 10 previous tickets and was proven to flee from police. He went on to state "no ticket is worth the loss of anyone's life."
When Judge Headley went to sentence Wright, he spoke briefly about how he did not believe Wright would not run again. He then sentenced Wright to 14 years.
Wright will be forced to serve seven years in the Department of Corrections, with good time credits possible, seven years probation with two years on home electronic monitoring.
During this entire sentence, Wright is not allowed a driver's license. He also must write a weekly letter saying how this sentence is affecting him so as not to ever forget Brandee.
Finally, a 1977 Camaro that Wright and Brandee bought together that Wright had restored and called priceless was awarded to the Siples family.
Pam Siples burst out in tears. The car was estimated to be worth $1,500.