TOWNSEND - In an emotionally charged sentencing hearing Friday, a 17-year-old from Butte received a six-year deferred sentence after the parents of a Helena teenager who died in the car he was driving while drinking said they forgive him.
The family of Kelly O'Loughlin asked Judge Dorothy McCarter not to sentence Michael Scott Colvin to prison, but instead to give him a chance to turn his life around. McCarter sentenced Colvin to six years deferred under the supervision of probation and parole.
Colvin, who pleaded guilty to felony negligent homicide, has admitted he was drinking alcohol the night of the accident. He also tested positive for marijuana.
Colvin was driving a 2007 Honda at more than 80 mph at 4:45 a.m. on April 27 when it collided with two elk on Highway 284 in Broadwater County. O'Loughlin, 15, who was in the back seat of the car, died from head injuries. Two other minors in the vehicle were not injured.
Gail O'Loughlin, Kelly's mother, wept Friday as she read from a prepared statement, saying her own life sentence began April 27.
"My beautiful 15-year-old daughter, Kelly, was killed in a car accident that day, and I will never again get the chance to hold her and tell her how much I love her," Gail said.
"I will never be able to watch Kelly go to her first junior prom. I will never get to see her graduate from college. … I will never get to see her father walk her down the aisle as she marries the man of her dreams, and I will never get to see or hold my grandchildren that Kelly promised me she would have.
"No parent should have to lose these dreams. No parent should have to get that phone call in the middle of the night telling them that their child is dead. No parent should ever have to go to the hospital and see their daughter's cold, lifeless body and hold her for the last time."
Because she loved her daughter so much, she said, she wanted to honor what she thought Kelly would want.
"So, Mike, I forgive you. I don't want you to end up in prison. You get the second chance that Kelly never got."
Kelly's father, Carl, said he hoped Colvin would grasp the magnitude of what his family has been through.
"We're facing this for the rest of our life. Your negligence has killed our precious girl," Carl said. "I can't count the number of days I wish I were dead myself. That's how bad the pain has been.
"So, it may surprise you that I wish you well," he continued. "I hope you find a way to turn your life around. I think it's going to mean saying goodbye to drugs and alcohol for the rest of your life."
Tears trickled down Colvin's face as the O'Loughlins spoke. He then followed them to the stand and read his letter to them.
"There's nothing I can do to take away your pain," he said. "I will never forget what happened that horrible night. I do not deserve forgiveness. I think of you and Kelly every single day."
McCarter said it was rare that the family of a victim asked the court for mercy. However, she also has to consider Colvin's record, she said. Colvin drank a beverage that had a 50 percent alcohol content that night, she said.
In addition to the deferred sentence, she ordered Colvin to perform 300 hours of community service, preferably with a program such as Mariah's Challenge, a youth anti-drug, anti-alcohol program founded in Butte.
He's also to comply with all of the standard conditions of probation and parole. He also must receive a chemical dependency evaluation and comply with any treatment ordered, attend a driving safety course, receive a mental-health evaluation and comply with recommended treatment, and pay $15,000 in restitution.