Millspaugh receives community service for fatal accident

December 4, 2012

“I am truly sorry for what I have taken from you.”

LUDINGTON – It was an emotional morning in 79th District Court today as Matthew Millspaugh of Ludington received his sentence from Judge Peter Wadel. Millspaugh was sentenced for the accidental motor vehicle deaths of Carol and Gary Berenbrock of Conklin.

Both sides, however, handled the sentencing with dignity, respect and understanding. Following the sentencing, members of the Berenbrock family introduced themselves and hugged Millspaugh, and his wife, Christa in the hallway of the Mason County Courthouse.

On Sunday, May 27, 2012 Millspaugh was driving south on U.S. 31 near Fountain Road. He momentarily took his eyes off the road. When he looked back up, a truck had stopped in front of him, so he steered his vehicle to the left, crossing the center line into the path of the Berenbrock’s motorcycle.

For his actions, Millspaugh was sentenced to a misdemeanor with one year discretionary jail time over two years, meaning he will only serve in jail if the judge feels it’s necessary. Millspaugh also received $580 in fines and 150 hours of community service.

Matthew Millspaugh, 41, lives in Ludington and is a teacher and coach at Mason County Eastern schools. He has coached successful girls basketball teams for many years. He is also close to his students. On May 27, he was returning from a graduation open house of one of his students.

Shannon Berenbrock, the victims’ daughter, addressed the court.

“It broke my heart that day… I feel like I’m trapped in a nightmare. My parents should be here but nothing can bring them back. I cannot find it in my heart to forgive you.” Shannon Berenbrock was crying throughout her statement and parts of it were difficult to understand.

Ryan Glanville, Millspaugh’s attorney, also addressed the court.

“No words can be said to make the friends or family feel better. That day impacted everybody in this room significantly. Matt is a loving husband, father and son.”

Finally, a tearful Millspaugh addressed the court recalling that day as friends and family of the Berenbrocks and his friends and family observed.

“I was involved with a horrific auto accident on May 27 in which two people I did not know were killed,” he said. “I was heading south on 31 past Fountain and briefly looked away, a mistake that changed the lives of so many people. When I looked back at the road, a truck had stopped in the middle of the road. I made a split second decision. It was the wrong decision as I swerved to miss the truck and I went into the lane of traffic and collided with a motorcycle. To this day I do not know why I swerved to the left and not to the right. I was not on the telephone, nor was I drinking or doing anything else that may be considered illegal while driving.

“I’m struggling most with the fact that I have taken away from other people’s lives a daughter, a son, sister and brother, a wife, a husband, a mother, a father, a grandmother or a grandfather. This is something I will live with the rest of my life. I cannot even imagine the amount of pain and agony that I have caused the victims’ family. I know there will be a long road to healing for most everybody affected by this accident.

“I am truly sorry for what I have taken from you. This brief lack of concentration on my part took the lives of two people who have done nothing wrong. There is nothing I can say that would remove the pain. I also wonder why this happened to the Berenbrocks or why it happened to me. I do not think I am a bad person as I also am a son, a brother, a husband and a father. I have no idea how to help you heal from the hurt I have caused you. I do want to offer my deepest apologies for my actions. I do hope from time you can gain some closure. Saying I am sorry doesn’t seem like enough to say but once again I am sorry for your loss and my involvement.”

Prosecutor Paul Spaniola had requested the above sentence in a plea bargain. At the request of the family, Spaniola had also requested Millspaugh pay for funeral expenses. Judge Wadel turned that request down, based on a civil settlement that had already been resolved.

“These are perhaps the most difficult of cases because of the suffering that the families and individuals have had to endure,” Wadel told the court. “There is no amount of justice that can be rendered that can restore two loved ones. We have a thing the legislature does to give us guidance but that doesn’t take care of human life and the one brief second two very fine people paid the ultimate price.

“We have good, decent people all over this case, unlike many cases I experience where somebody is quite palpable of criminal behavior.

“I truly feel for your loss, the loss each of you experienced.

“We have options like fines and costs, jail. I look at the reasons for imposing a number of those things for penalties, which bring about punishment for crimes committed. Jail is a chance to give a person time to reflect on a crime. I guess I’m at a point in this case and in reviewing everything submitted, I have to conclude that jail is not the best option here. I’m not going to impose any upfront jail time as long as in the next two years you don’t violate any laws.

“You already perform a great service to this community and I’m going to add 150 hours in community service to be performed over the next two years. The thing that I can get better out of you than jail is more community service. I think that will benefit the community and the Berenbrocks’ names.”

 

Editorial note: The MCP chose not to photograph the sentencing of Matt Millspaugh. We believe our reasons are explained in the context of the article.

 

 

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Betten Baker Ford

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