DARLINGTON - An Iowa man was sentenced to 10 years in prison Tuesday after he killed a Mineral Point woman in a car crash in the Town of Seymour in 2015.
Chad Michael Ernzen, 39, Durango, Iowa, was sentenced to 10 years in prison followed by seven years of extended supervision on a Class D felony count of homicide by vehicle while using a controlled substance and a Class D felony count of second-degree reckless homicide.
Ernzen was charged after he killed 87-year-old Rosette V. King in a head-on collision on Wisconsin 81 on Dec. 14, 2015. Blood tests revealed that Ernzen had methamphetamines and amphetamines in his system at the time.
Ernzen’s sentence was longer than the recommended sentence agreed upon by his attorney, Guy Taylor, and Lafayette County District Attorney Jenna Gill. The two had reached a joint recommendation of eight years in prison and four years of supervision.
Taylor explained that, while Ernzen’s actions had grave consequences, further analysis of the incident as well as Ernzen’s own testimony suggested that Ernzen had not used meth the day of the incident and that the traces of meth found in his blood had lingered from previous and prolonged use of the drug.
Taylor said that Ernzen could not remember the crash very well - he was rendered comatose for three weeks following the crash and suffered permanent, but not debilitating, brain damage - but suggested that the crash was caused by lingering effects of the drug of which Ernzen was unaware, as well as pain from an unrelated medical condition.
In addition, Taylor mentioned that King was determined to have been driving at 80 miles per hour, which contributed to her fate, provoking consternation from King’s gathered family members.
Gill read from a joint statement prepared by King’s family. The statement described King as a woman still beautiful and vibrant even at 87 years old, who was still a heart of the family.
“Do what you are obligated to do: keep people safe from repeat criminals,” the statement said, recommending the maximum possible sentence of 15 years in prison and 10 years of supervision.
Lafayette County Circuit Judge Duane Jorgenson disagreed with Taylor’s explanation, saying he did not believe circumstances mitigated Ernzen’s involvement in the crash. Regardless of when Ernzen last used meth, Jorgenson said, meth was found in his system after a fatal crash, from which Jorgenson concluded that Ernzen was under the influence of controlled substances.
Jorgenson pointed out Ernzen’s history of meth-related “undesirable behavior” beginning in 2004, when Ernzen was convicted of a meth-related offense in Iowa shortly after the death of his son in a car crash.
Jorgenson also noted that Ernzen seemed to have attempted to dodge responsibility in King’s death, at one point violating his supervision requirements and absconding to Florida in 2016. The extradition process cost the Lafayette County Sheriff over $1,000, which Ernzen will be required to pay back in full.
“Addictions take from people their sense of empathy,” Jorgenson said. “And, Mr. Ernzen, if not for your guilty plea, I would give you the maximum sentence.”
Jorgenson instead imposed a 17-year bifurcated sentence with conditions that he have no contact with King’s family, he possess no controlled substances and that he undergo cognitive therapy.
“I hope you take the time during your confinement to reflect on the circumstances that put you here,” Jorgenson said. “The last thing I want is for, somewhere down the line, us to be right back here again.”