ST. GEORGE – A Hurricane man who was intoxicated when he hit and killed a motorcyclist was sentenced Monday to up to 15 years in the Utah State Prison.
Robert J. Lounsbury, 51, of Hurricane, was charged after a May 13 incident in which Charles S. Vick, 64, also of Hurricane, was killed.
Lounsbury pleaded guilty in Fifth District Court in September to a second-degree felony charge of automobile homicide involving negligence and driving under the influence of alcohol.
At Monday’s hearing, Lounsbury’s attorney Rick Bonewell disputed the presentencing report and said his client is remorseful for the victim and his family as well as himself.
“He’s sick over this. He understands what’s happened, your honor, he’s very sorry and very concerned for the family,” Bonewell said.
Lounsbury knew he shouldn’t have been driving that day, Bonewell said, and asked a neighbor to go pick up his daughter.
“He’d been at home from work, cleaning the house and was drinking,” Bonewell said. When the neighbor couldn’t pick up his daughter, Lounsbury went ahead and got in his car to go get her.
Lounsbury was southbound on 870 West in Hurricane and turned left at the 325 North intersection, putting Lounsbury’s 1997 Buick LeSabre Lounsbury in the path of a northbound motorcycle ridden by Vick.
First responders found Vick lying on the ground, unresponsive. He was taken to Dixie Regional Medical Center in critical condition and pronounced dead soon after.
Bonewell told the court that when the accident happened, Lounsbury was westbound into the sun and had stopped at the intersection and thought it was clear. He didn’t see the motorcycle driven by Vick.
“He shouldn’t have been there, it shouldn’t have happened, he understands that,” Bonewell said.
Lounsbury has taken all the steps ordered by the court, including attending alcohol treatment and even going to extra meetings, Bonewell said. Lounsbury has also been meeting with his bishop, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Bonewell said
“It’s a horrible, horrific event, and it cost someone his life,” Bonewell said. Lounsbury understands that he has affected not only himself but also his own family, the victim, and the victim’s family and has committed to never drinking again.
The presentencing report stated Lounsbury was eligible for incarceration in the Purgatory Correctional Facility in Washington County rather than the Utah State Prison, but the report did not recommend county jail.
“It’s a case, Judge, where I really believe that prison would do more harm than good,” Bonewell said.
Lounsbury also addressed the court, saying how sorry he was.
“The accident haunts me every day. I have nightmares every night. I’m making myself physically sick,” Lounsbury said. “I can’t express the physical and mental horror this has caused.”
Lounsbury said he immediately checked himself into an intensive outpatient treatment program and began attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Lounsbury is a single father of a 10-year-old daughter, and has been for nine-and-a-half years, he said.
“Please, your honor, my daughter needs me.”
Lounsbury’s boss also made a statement on his behalf, calling Lounsbury a valuable and very responsible employee.
5th District Court Judge Eric Ludlow was not swayed.
Lounsbury may be a responsible employee, but he’s “not a very responsible citizen,” Ludlow said.
“This is the fourth time that you’ve had a DUI, and this time you caused a death,” the judge said.
Lounsbury was convicted of DUI in Tremonton in 1998 and 2001, and in Roosevelt in 2006, Ludlow said.
“This time you’re at well over twice the legal limit here, at .18, you got behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and caused this death. Do you want to respond to that?”
Lounsbury replied that he was sorry and that he didn’t realize how intoxicated he was.
“I can’t explain how bad I feel,” he told Ludlow.
In addition to the multiple DUIs, Washington County prosecuting attorney Zachary Weiland said, Lounsbury was involved in a simple assault domestic violence with intoxication in 2008 and a 2009 incident involving disorderly conduct and intoxication.
“He’s been dealing with alcohol since 1998 and continues to do so,” Weiland said.
Weiland read from Lounsbury’s own statement that said Lounsbury had a Friday off and was cleaning house. He drank seven beers in about three hours, then “came to” about 3 p.m. and realized he had to pick up his daughter.
“Let me stop you there,” Ludlow said. “Where’s he going to pick up his daughter? At school? Where there are children? Where he could run over children.”
Lounsbury felt like he could drive, even at twice the legal limit, Weiland continued, and recommended prison rather than county jail.
“There are certain offenses that if you commit, you’re going to go to prison,” Ludlow said, “and this is one of them.”
“The fact of the matter is that this is the fourth time that you’ve gotten behind the wheel of a motor vehicle when you were impaired,” Ludlow said. “It doesn’t bode well for you.”
Ludlow sentenced Lounsbury to not less than one year and not more than 15 years in the Utah State Prison.
Lounsbury was taken into custody by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
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