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Sen. Darling uses Fond du Lac man's death as case for tougher OWI laws

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - A Wisconsin senator says a 90-day jail sentence for a drunk driving death is just one more reason the state needs a 10-year minimum prison term for drunken homicide.

River Hills Republican Alberta Darling is the Senate’s main sponsor of a bill that would also make three-and-four-time OWI a felony – and would create a minimum six-month term for causing injuries by driving drunk.

Darling criticized the three-month jail sentence given last month to 24-year-old Christopher Schneider, who pleaded no contest to reckless homicide after his vehicle struck-and-killed bicyclist Eugene Dennis northeast of Fond du Lac in 2011.

Darling said a “respect for life” demands more than a 90-day jail term.

Schneider’s attorney said the sentence was appropriate in his situation, and he was never in trouble before.

The Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin criticized the short sentence, saying 90 days doesn’t seem right.

Dennis was a Fond du Lac High School track coach who was about to start a six-month jail term when he was killed. He was accused of having sexual relations with a student, and he pleaded no contest to an illegal building entry and misconduct in office.

Authorities said Dennis was drinking while watching a Packer game at a friend’s house, and then had a few more drinks at a tavern.

A public hearing was held last week on the stiffer OWI penalties. Critics said it would cost too much to house all the offenders in prison.