WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) – A Marshfield man who now admits huffing from an aerosol can when he crashed into a horse-drawn buggy last summer has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for killing a six-week-old Amish girl.
Brian Witkus had initially told police that he was leaning over to pick up a book that had fallen on the floor of his minivan when the crash happened August 12, 2009. But he told a state investigator writing a pre-sentence report that he was huffing from a can shortly before the accident.
“I want to apologize for what had happened even though that wasn’t in my control. I do grieve over their daughter’s death day,” he said referring to the family of Ada Mae Miller. “I pray for forgiveness from God and from the Miller family too.”
Judge Greg Huber said the prison sentence will give the 50-year-old Witkus the treatment he needs to break a long addiction to drugs and alcohol. Witkus will be eligible for a risk-reduction sentence, meaning he can petition for release after serving just over two-and-a-half years if he completes treatment and meets other conditions.
Huber also sentenced Witkus to five years on extended supervision and ordered him to pay nearly $32,000 in restitution.
An eyewitness said Witkus was going slower than the 35 mile-per-hour speed limit on West McMillan Street when he swerved into the buggy near St. Joseph’s Avenue, according to court documents. Miller was thrown from the buggy and her mother, who was holding her, fell on top of her. The infant later died at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
The crash with the buggy was the third accident in three months in which Witkus was huffing, prosecutor Ryan Wetzsteon said. Witkus’ remorse and treatment in the year since the accident comes “too little, too late.”
The Miller family attended Monday’s hearing but offered their statement to the judge in a written letter. They forgive Witkus for causing the death, according to the letter read by Wetzsteon, but are afraid to travel for fear of another accident.