Lewis gets five years for wife#8217;s death

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 14, 2007

He was behind the wheel the day his wife died in a car crash.

Now, a Waterloo man will spend the next five years behind bars.

Donald Lewis, 38, of 1850 County Road 48, Waterloo, was sentenced Wednesday in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court to five years in prison that will be followed by five years probation. Lewis pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of aggravated vehicular manslaughter in connection with the death of his wife, Elizabeth.

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Lawrence County Prosecutor J.B. Collier told Judge Charles Cooper that at the time of the crash, Lewis’ blood alcohol level was nearly four times the legal limit and that the accident was not the first time Lewis had driven drunk.

“He had eight prior DUIs and was driving without

permission. He had had his license suspended,” Collier said. “Obviously he has a serious alcohol problem.”

Collier likened Lewis’ habit of drunken driving to playing Russian Roulette.

Tony Knipp, the brother of the late Elizabeth Lewis, begged Cooper to put Lewis away for as long as possible.

“It’s been 163 days since your decision to drive drunk and kill Beth,” Knipp said to Lewis. … “And what have you done in the last five months? You haven’t stopped partying. You’ve been seen driving drunk and you continue to put people’s lives in danger.” He charged that Lewis had shown no remorse for what he had done and no respect for the legal system by dragging out his guilty plea and sentencing.

Knipp asked Cooper to make sure Lewis got help for his alcohol problem and asked also that Lewis be sent to a prison as far away as possible.

But Lewis’ attorney, Mike Gleichauf, said while the accident was tragic, he took issue with the idea that Lewis was a habitual drunk driver, pointing out that of his eight prior DUI convictions, five were prior to 1992 and only two occurred since 1999. The fatal accident was “an isolated accident and not a regular occurrence as the state would have you believe,” Gleichauf said.

“He loved his wife more than anything in the world and would never have done anything to have intentionally hurt her,” Gleichauf said.

Lewis cried as he addressed Cooper.

“Nothing I can say can make this any better,” Lewis said. He said the notion he was not remorseful was “ridiculous.”

Throughout much of Wednesday’s court proceedings, family members of both Lewis and his late wife cried openly.

Cooper took Lewis’ driver’s license away for the rest of his life. He assured her family members Lewis could indeed get substance abuse treatment while in prison, but had little latitude in sentencing — state law dictates much of that — and no discretion at all as to what prison Lewis will be sent.

The accident occurred in late May on State Route 93.