CASSOPOLIS — Two years to the day after the auto accident that left her with severe injuries, robbed her of her financial security and possibly led to the death of her husband, Edwardsburg resident Lorrie Routley finally had the chance Friday in Cass County Circuit Court to confront the drunken driver responsible for the crash.
She took full advantage, to the extent that Judge Michael Dodge ended up deviating upward from sentencing guidelines and ordering Elkhart resident Ralph Katzenberger to a 16-month to two-year prison term.
“You took down a productive person in society. ... I’m not the same person I was before,” Routley said. “I did things with my family that I can’t do now.”
Despite pins and/or plates that hold together her right foot, hip and hand, Routley said she has just 60 percent function on her right side. She no longer works, she said, adding she has lost her medical insurance and can’t afford to see a doctor. Dodge added that Routley, apparently because of $500,000 in medical bills, also lost her home and now lives in “a trailer.”
The accident on Michigan 205 near Edwardsburg also involved Routley’s husband, Michael, and perhaps was a factor in the aneurysm that claimed his life last July, the judge said. Also, Routley told Dodge she still might lose her foot.
“God says I have to forgive you. I will forgive you ... but I can’t forget,” Routley said, looking squarely at Katzenberger.
Prosecutor Victor Fitz said the crash marked the seventh alcohol-related conviction for the 51-year-old Katzenberger, who apologized to Routley.
“If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “I wish I could do something but I can’t.”
Dodge said Katzenberger was angry with his girlfriend that day and left his house to continue drinking at a bar. A victim of terminal liver disease, he later absconded while on bond and evaded detection for two years, the judge said.
In yet another drunken-driving case, Dodge sentenced Elkhart resident Brian Eldridge, 54, a former teacher and baseball coach at Goshen High School, to two years of probation, with the first 120 days to be served in the county jail, for driving drunk in Cassopolis on Nov. 26. Fitz said the 0.30 percent blood-alcohol level he registered indicated he was both “pickled and preserved.”
Also Friday, Dodge sentenced Edwardsburg 16-year-old Andres McClain to a two- to 15-year prison term for his sexual assaults of two underage girls he encountered on Oct. 28 at an Edwardsburg High School football game. Dodge said McClain “used an embarrassing text message” to extract sex acts from a 13-year-old before later that night groping a 15-year-old.
A foster-care child before his adoption, McClain could have received in excess of a four-year minimum term but Dodge took into consideration his age and support from his family and community.
Staff writer Lou Mumford: