Sunday, Jun 24, 2018
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Driver who killed 5 bicyclists sentenced

Judge hands him 40 years in prison

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A man buzzed on painkillers and other drugs when his pickup truck plowed into a pack of Michigan bicyclists, killing five, was sentenced Monday to at least 40 years in prison after he tearfully expressed regret over the rural road tragedy.

Bicyclists-Struck-MichiganPickett

Charles Pickett Jr.

KALAMAZOO GAZETTE-MLIVE.COM Enlarge

“I’ll live with this the rest of my life,” Charles Pickett, Jr., told a judge. “I would give my life for the people I murdered, killed, and maimed, and I just want to say I’m sorry.”

Nine people out on a recreational ride were members of a group called the “Chain Gang.” They were hit on a two-lane road two years ago in southwestern Michigan’s Cooper Township.

Pickett, 52, of Battle Creek, didn’t dispute that he had ingested drugs that day. A trial witness said he had attended a cousin’s funeral and swallowed a handful. 

His lawyers, however, said second-degree murder charges were excessive.

Kalamazoo County Judge Paul Bridenstine told Pickett that his apology was inadequate. He said he had many opportunities to stop driving before the crash, 140 miles west of Detroit.

The dead were three women and two men, ages 42 to 74.

“The loss is massive and immeasurable. ... You selfishly and unnecessarily murdered five people and altered the lives of four others” Judge Bridenstine said.

Relatives of the victims described the impact.

“My mother’s story does not end in tragedy. She lives on inside of me. I can feel it,” said Madeline Bradley, daughter of Debbie Bradley. “I can feel it in my bones and in the tears that roll down my cheeks, and in every breath. ... That’s the story I want people to know.”

Pickett will be eligible for parole after decades in prison.

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