18-Year-old will serve 25 Years for 2012 Vehicular Homicide
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Tim McLaren of Marion said Wednesday "What a Wonderful World" had special meaning to him but his "world is a lot less wonderful" since his 25-year-old daughter was killed in a head-on collision last year.
In a victim impact statement Wednesday at the sentencing hearing of Chase Goers, McLaren said he had hoped he and daughter Kelley could dance to the Louis Armstrong song at her wedding, but that will never happen because Goers made the decision to drive home drunk Nov. 18, 2012.
Kelley's mother, Mary McLaren, said in her impact statement she still can hear the sound of the knock at the door that night when police officers told her of the "senseless" crash and their daughter, who "was so careful to do what was right" and wasn't drinking and driving, was already dead.
"We were all in shock and still in shock," Mary McLaren said in the statement read by Anastasia Wilson, victim/witness coordinator with the Linn County Attorney's Office.
"I still cry myself to sleep every night," Mary McLaren said.
Tim and Mary McLaren said they forgive Goers. Tim McLaren told the court he didn't feel a deferred judgment was appropriate. He wanted Goers needed to understand all actions have consequences and needed to have it on his permanent record.
Sixth Judicial District Chief Judge Patrick Grady then sentenced Goers, now 18, to up to 25 years in prison. Goers pleaded guilty in August to vehicular homicide while driving under the influence of alcohol, which carries a penalty of 25 years, and vehicular homicide for driving in a reckless manner, which carries a 10-year sentence.
Goers was driving the wrong way on Interstate 380 when he collided head-on, near Wright Brothers Boulevard, with a northbound car driven by Kelley McLaren, who was driving home from Iowa City after a concert, according to court documents. Kelley McLaren was pronounced dead at the scene and Goers was seriously injured.
According to a criminal complaint, Goers' blood alcohol content was 0.154 percent, nearly twice the legal limit to drive.
Assistant Linn County Attorney Nic Scott said during the hearing that Goers accelerated as he passed cars on the interstate that night, according to witnesses, and he never braked before hitting Kelley McLaren's car.
Goers, who cried during the victim impact statements, apologized to the McLarens and to the court for his actions and asked for forgiveness.
"I wished I could take it all back," Goers said. "I just want a chance (to prove) I have changed. I'm not a bad person. I made a horrible mistake."
Grady said according to the law, Goers, because he was 17 at the time of the collision, could receive a deferred sentence and probation, but he didn't think that was appropriate in this case because of "the sheer recklessness of what happened."
"You had opportunities to recognize you were going the wrong way and could have gotten off the road or the obvious of not driving in the first place," Grady said.
Grady said he would run the sentences concurrently and it would be up to the parole board how much of the sentence Goers would serve because there is no mandatory minimum. Goers also was ordered to pay $150,000 in victim restitution to Kelley McLaren's estate and any other victim restitution determined by the county attorney's office.