Updated: Maximum sentence given in hit-and-run that killed child

Fowler to serve 40 and 15 years, consecutively

Full story update:

Jurors handed down the maximum sentence available for Michael Fowler, 28, guilty of negligent homicide in the hit-and-run death of a 12-year-old Wooster boy.


Garrett Martin was driving a 4-wheeler on Burgess Lane near his home on Aug. 15 of last year when Fowler, who was intoxicated, struck Martin's ATV and continued driving.


Martin died instantly of a skull fracture, according to official testimony, when he was propelled ahead of the wreck and onto the pavement.


Jurors also found Fowler guilty of DWI and leaving the scene of an accident with injury or death.


The maximum sentence for the combined offenses is 55 years in prison and a fine of $25,000, but Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland said it is "reasonable to expect" Fowler to be free in 9 years and two months.


Prosecutors outlined an equation of reduced sentencing in the sentencing phase of the trial Thursday that showed Fowler is eligible for parole after he serves one-third of his sentence, and if he is credited for good behavior, he'll serve one-sixth.


"That's an embarrassment to this state and a disservice to the family, to this family, and to families all across this state," Hiland said. "Given the way the current parole system is run, it is reasonable to expect he will be out in 9 years and two months."


Hiland said previously the negligent homicide and leaving the scene of an accident charges carried lesser sentences than those delivered Thursday.

Jail time increased for Fowler, he said, because of his classification as a habitual offender.


Fowler has four prior felony convictions dating back to 2003 related to breaking or entering and residential burglary.


Fowler's family testified in the sentencing phase Thursday that he has had alcohol and mental problems, and asked jurors to consider letting Fowler out of jail "while his kids are still kids."


About 20 witnesses testified in the two-day trial.


Key witnesses Zachary Koontz and Matthew Ballard, who were passengers in Fowler's vehicle, gave a sequence of events of Aug. 15 at the beginning of the trial Wednesday.


The three went swimming at Cadron Creek, drank beer and whiskey, and then were on their way back to Fowler's home in Morrilton when Martin was killed, according to the two.


The two stated Fowler told them to tell others hitting a deer caused damage to his vehicle, and testified Fowler cut out and disposed of deployed airbags from his truck.


Investigators later found Fowler cut out and used a seat belt to tie down the hood of his truck, which was substantially damaged in the wreck.


About an hour after the wreck in Wooster, Fowler was arrested by Morrilton police.


According to court testimony, Koontz and Ballard did not call authorities though they attempted to get Fowler to stop his vehicle, but Ballard's brother called police after Ballard called and asked for a ride from Shaw Bridge Road, where they testified Fowler finally stopped after the accident.


Testifying on Martin's behalf Thursday were his father and mother, his peewee football coach and his former teacher at Eastside Elementary in Greenbrier.


Martin's mother, Jackie Martin, read an emotional account of her family's life without Garrett Martin, her only child.
"Michael Fowler may be locked up, but we are the prisoners. For Garrett's family, there is no possibility of parole," she said.


Fowler's defense attorney Lynn Plemmons also read a letter to jurors. He said in January Fowler asked him to present a written apology to the family, which he declined to provide them as Fowler's attorney due to the letter's implications.


In the letter Fowler asked the family to one day forgive him, and wrote that "not a day goes by" that he doesn't cry and feel sorry for what he has done.


Forty years of Fowler's sentence and $15,000 of his fine are dedicated to the negligent homicide charge, and 15 years and $10,000 are dedicated to the charge for fleeing the scene of the accident.

His sentence will be served consecutively, as ordered by Judge Charles Clawson.


"I think today is yet another tragic story related to drinking and driving, and yet another reason that as a society we can't tolerate an individual's cavalier attitude toward it," Hiland said. "Because when they take that cavalier attitude about this, people die and families like the Martins lose their 12-year-old son."

 

 

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Jurors handed down the maximum sentence available for Michael Fowler, guilty of negligent homicide, DWI and leaving the scene of an accident with injury or death.


Fowler, 28, is classified as a habitual offender having four previous felony convictions related to breaking and entering and residential burglary.


The two-day trial concluded Thursday after a short sentence deliberation and an even shorter verdict deliberation.


Fowler, a resident of Morrilton, is guilty in the death of Garrett Martin, 12, of Wooster.


Martin was driving a 4-wheeler on Burgess Lane in August of last year when Fowler struck Martin's ATV and caused Martin's death.


Fowler's blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit for operating a vehicle, according to official testimony.


Fowler was sentenced to 40 years and a fine of $15,000 for negligent homicide, and 15 years with a $10,000 fine for fleeing the scene.


The sentences will be served consecutively, according to Judge Charles Clawson's order.


Jurors delivered the maximum sentence after lengthy, emotional testimony delivered by Martin's parents, a teacher, and his football coach given in the sentencing phase.


Fowler's wife and father appeared on stand in the sentencing phase to ask jurors to let Fowler out of jail "while his kids are still kids."

 

 

Full story coming.

 

Fatal hit-and-run trial continues Thursday
Updated: Officials identify victim, suspect in hit-and-run incident

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Tue, 01/17/2017 - 12:06

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