BY STACI WILSON
The mother of a Nicholson woman killed in an August 2015 drunk-driving crash in Lenox Twp. took the stand as the 20-year-old driver was sentenced Thursday morning in the Susquehanna County Court of Common Pleas.
The 22-year-old victim’s mother, Michelle Schuler, expressed her family’s heartache and pain experienced since the death of her daughter. “A huge part of me died with Shannon that day,” she told the court.
Driver Derreck Anderson, of Hop Bottom, was sentenced by Susquehanna County Senior Judge Kenneth Seamans to serve 18 months to five years on a count of involuntary manslaughter; and two days to six months for driving under the influence. As part of a the plea agreement, the court is recommending that Anderson be accepted in the state Dept. of Corrections Boot Camp program.
In comments directed to Anderson she said, “Shannon will eventually become a sad memory of your past you won’t want to talk about. It was your choice to drive the way you did – fast and reckless.”
Mrs. Schuler told the court that on the day of the crash, Anderson had been bragging about how fast he could drive his car. A family member had told him to “drive safe” before he left a family get-together with Shannon in the car, she said.
“You cocked your head and said, ‘Yeah, right,’” Mrs. Schuler said. “That was the last thing you said before you wrecked the car and killed Shannon.”
Police reported that Anderson’s BAC level was .09% at the time of the crash on State Route 374, over the .02% legal limit for a minor. He failed to negotiate a curve and his 2001 Volkswagen Jetta became airborne and struck a tree. The car then rolled onto its roof in a drainage ditch, according to police. Neither Anderson nor Schuler were wearing seatbelts.
Based on an accident reconstruction, police determined Anderson was traveling at a rate of speed that was not prudent to negotiate the curve.
Anderson kept his face lowered while Mrs. Schuler spoke. He declined to comment prior to his sentencing.
Defense attorney Paul Ackourey said letters had been submitted on Anderson’s behalf that “attest to his good character and nature.”
Ackourey said his client had an alcohol problem but accepted responsibility from the time of the crash and attempted to express his sorrow to the Schuler family at that time.
He said that the state’s Boot Camp program would not only be a benefit to Anderson, but also to the community.