Whitehall man faces prison term for drunk driving death.

September 1, 2020

Nicholas Kawula, left, and attorney James Marek.

Whitehall man faces prison term for drunk driving death.


By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

LUDINGTON — A 33-year-old Whitehall man faces two to 15 years in prison after pleading “no contest” in 51st Circuit Court Tuesday, Sept. 1, to operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing death in connection to the vehicular death of Christopher Patrick Kapala, 40, of Scottville.

Nicholas Francis Kawula, of 316 S. Division St., is also likely to face a civil suit in the matter, said defense attorney James Marek.

The crash occurred Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 on US 31 near Free Soil Road in Free Soil Township at 4:26 a.m. Kawula, who was driving a 2012 Dodge Caravan, had attended a Christmas party in Traverse City and was on his way back to Whitehall, said Judge Susan K. Sniegowski. According to this statement to police at the accident scene, he believed he may have fallen asleep, Judge Sniegowski said. Kapala was driving a Chevrolet Cavalier.

The judge said Kawula’s blood alcohol content registered at .103, according to the police report.

The road was “clear and dry,” said Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola.

The investigation determined that Kawula’s vehicle was traveling southbound on US 31, crossed the centerline, and struck Kapala’s northbound vehicle head-on, said Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole previously. Kapala died at the scene.

Kawula was transported by ambulance to Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital with serious injuries and was then transferred to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids for advanced care.

The investigation was performed by the Mason County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan State Police and the Michigan State Police Crime Lab.

Operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing death is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Kawula’s driver’s license will be subject to Secretary of State sanctions, said Spaniola. Restitution in the case is yet to be determined due to the likelihood of a civil suit, he said.

Sentencing guidelines in the case are 19-38 months.

Sentencing is set for Oct. 20 at 4 p.m.

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