Stan Guenther said he still sets out a cup and saucer for his wife, just like he did when he made hot chocolate for her.
Guenther described in court Tuesday what the loss of his partner of more than 50 years has meant to him, before Clatsop County Circuit Judge Paula Brownhill handed down a six-year, three-month sentence to the man who killed Guenther's wife in a drunken crash last February.
Kalen Jeffrey Painter, 21, was convicted last week of second-degree manslaughter for the head-on collision on Oregon Highway 202 just south of Astoria that killed Ruth Guenther, 73, of Olney.
On Tuesday he was given the mandatory minimum sentence of 75 months in prison, plus 240 days in jail for three counts of driving under the influence of intoxicants. He was also fined $5,972.
The sentencing hearing included poignant testimony from Guenther's husband and children, who were in attendance during the entire trial. Painter's family, who also watched the trial, were in the courtroom as well.
Painter himself also spoke, telling Guenther's relatives that he asks no forgiveness from them, and wants his crime to serve as a warning to others.
"I promise I will spend the rest of my life making sure people do not make the same decision, and the same mistake I have made," he said.
Painter's attorney, Bruce Tarbox, told Brownhill that the 21-year-old Warrenton man was "self-medicating" the deep depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder that plagued him, and was deeply depressed and possibly even suicidal at the time of the crash, which killed Guenther instantly but left him virtually unscathed.
As she handed down the sentence, Brownhill told Painter that what struck her most during the trial was the evidence that Guenther tried her best to get out of the path of Painter's 5,000-pound SUV as it bore down on her, but that his vehicle drove straight into, and over the top of, her small car.
"It could have been anyone else," she said. "Without a doubt, you would have killed someone, because you were so horribly impaired."
Painter registered a .28 blood-alcohol level after the crash, a level that one witness said would require a person of Painter's size to consume 17 or more drinks.
District Attorney Josh Marquis pointed to some other evidence about the fatal crash that wasn't allowed into the trial as evidence, including the fact that Painter was not only drunk but also under the influence of Vicodin, a prescription painkiller, and marijuana at the time.
Children speakRuth Guenther's two children, Stan Guenther of Warrenton and Annette Coates of Wichita, Kan., offered statements Tuesday. A granddaughter, Whitney Guenther, whose sister was killed in a vehicle accident two years ago, also spoke.
"She was always there for her family," she said. "She was my biggest cheerleader."
Stan Guenther wore around his neck a ring that he recently gave to his wife as a sign of their renewed love, and which she was wearing the day she died. Speaking from the point of view of his wife, he described how the two talked about how they would spend their remaining years together, often over a cup of hot chocolate he would make for her.
"Now, no one is sitting in my chair, but my cup and saucer are still there. But they're empty," he said. "I won't see anything of this future, because this individual cut off 10 or 15 years of my life."
Painter was charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter. At the trial the prosecution tried to show Painter displayed "extreme indifference to the value of human life" - a requirement for a first-degree manslaughter conviction - with testimony about the aftermath of the crash. According to witnesses, Painter yelled obscenities, fought with emergency personnel and made such statements as "the bitch shouldn't have been in my way."
Painter's defense attorney called no witnesses, and Painter himself did not take the stand.
Call for maximumMarquis, who called the crash one of the worst manslaughter cases he's prosecuted, asked Brownhill to impose the maximum one-year sentence for each of the three DUII counts and require Painter to serve all of them one after the other.
Brownhill declined, saying that making the sentences consecutive might make Painter ineligible for treatment, and instead imposed a total of 240 days for all three counts. Painter will receive credit for the time he's already served in Clatsop County Jail, about 180 days since the crash.
Two of the DUII charges stem from arrests in 2002, and the third from the collision. Painter was set to go to trial separately on the third DUII charge in December, but instead pleaded no contest to the charge Tuesday.
That DUII charge had to be handled separately from the manslaughter case because some of the evidence allowed in that trial could not have been used in a DUII case, Marquis said before the sentencing hearing.
The first of the two 2002 DUII arrests occurred in April when Painter was pulled over by police in Warrenton after failing to use his turn signal at an intersection. A test put his blood-alcohol level at .10.
The second arrest occurred just a month later when Painter tried to drive onto Old Youngs Bay Bridge, which was closed for construction. Painter, who was described as "stuporous" by one witness, refused to take a breath test, but told police he had taken Vicodin.
After the crash, the district attorney's office added the two 2002 DUII cases to the manslaughter case as a tactical move to help show a pattern of past behavior by Painter, Marquis said. Brownhill allowed the cases to be combined over the objections of Tarbox.
The two DUII cases were still pending at the time of the February crash. A month after the May arrest the two cases were consolidated into one case, along with a third incident in April 2002 in which Painter was charged with second-degree criminal mischief and failure to perform the duties of driver after knocking down a group of mailboxes with his vehicle. Defense motions and other delays repeatedly pushed back the trial date, and the case was yet to go to trial when the crash occurred.
A DUII conviction brings an automatic one-year driver's license suspension, but because the two DUII charges hadn't yet gone to trial, Painter was still carrying a valid license at the time of the collision.
Not unusualThe delays in Painter's two DUII cases were not anything out of the ordinary for such cases, said Marquis, although he said in one instance they left him unable to call an important witness. Marquis, a frequent critic of the drawn-out DUII trial process, helped draft a bill tightening the requirements for DUII diversion requests that was recently approved by the Oregon Legislature and is scheduled to be signed Thursday by Gov. Ted Kulongoski.
"It's common for cases to be set over by the court," he said. "It's not uncommon for a DUII case to take nine or 10 months."
After the hearing, Stan Guenther said he was disappointed that Painter wasn't convicted of first-degree manslaughter for his wife's death last week, but believes the jury "did a fine job."
"These people can go home and tell their family and friends, 'look, I am protecting all of you, by putting this man in prison for at least this length of time,'" he said.
He now supports more drastic measures against people arrested for driving under the influence, including a mandatory year in jail for a first offense.
"Then if they ever get a second DUII, it's back to jail, period," he said.