A town of Greenfield man will spend a month in jail for each year of Maria Gartner’s life, which was cut short in 2017 after he struck her vehicle head-on while driving more than 90 mph in La Crosse County.
David S. Sanders, 34, pleaded guilty Friday to homicide by negligent operation of a motor vehicle in La Crosse County Circuit Court and was sentenced to 26 months of incarceration in prison and an additional 60 months on extended supervision by Judge Ramona Gonzalez. Sanders also was ordered to complete 2,600 hours of community service while on probation and pay a $2,600 fine, in addition to court costs, probation fees and other fines.
“I have chosen 26 because it is a meaningful number. It is a number that says you must remember for each one of those months a year that you took,” Gonzalez said. “In that 60 months and for the rest of your life, Mr. Sanders, you will remember that this young woman was not able to live anything more than those 26 years.”
Sanders admitted in court Friday that his negligence early July 25, 2017, killed Gartner, a certified nursing assistant who was on her way to work. Sanders was found to be driving in excess of 95 mph in a 55-mph zone on a windy stretch of Hwy. FO near Yanzer Road. A blood test showed he had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.086% more than an hour after the crash; however, due to a procedural error, the evidence was inadmissible.
Gartner’s family and friends called for the maximum sentence of 10 years, arguing that Sanders’ selfish, reckless decision cost a smart, compassionate and funny young woman the chance to pursue her nursing career, marry the love of her life and have children of her own.
Gartner’s mother, Cindy Gartner, described her as “one in a million.”
“She had the rare and instinctive gift of making everyone feel special,” Cindy Gartner said. “I weep every day for her.”
Cindy Gartner called for a stiff sentence, saying, “Maria was given a death sentence, and we were all given a life sentence.”
Friends and family recounted the times they shared laughs and Red Vines with Gartner, as well as Easter baskets, Mother’s Day cards and nursing classes.
“To say that Maria is missed wouldn’t begin to do any kind of justice for her,” her friend Hannah Sobkoyiak said.
Sanders apologized profusely to Gartner’s family. His voice broke as he said, “I am so sorry. I know you guys don’t, maybe, want to hear that, but I just want everybody to know how heartbroken I am. I think about that accident every moment of every day.”
He described leaving that morning late, hoping he could make up some time. He came upon Gartner’s car as he came down the hill. Data from his car’s computer shows he was flooring the pedal up until 1 second before he collided with Gartner. He took responsibility for speeding down the road and apologized for the lengthy legal process.
Sanders’ parents, John and Beth Sanders, also apologized for the loss of Gartner and described the sleepless nights Sanders has had since the crash more than two years ago. Sanders lost his foot in the crash and will have chronic pain due to his injuries.
“The accident changed the life of everyone that knows and loves David, and everyone that knows and loves Maria,” John Sanders said.
They also asked for forgiveness.
“When it’s us who was unjust and caused harm, it’s all we can do is hope for mercy,” John Sanders said.
While the law requires Gonzalez to consider probation, she said a sentence of only probation would depreciate the seriousness of the crime.
“The seriousness demands that you pay the price. Maria paid the price of your negligence with her life. I can’t take your life for hers, but I can take some of your time. And no time, let’s be clear, absolutely no time makes up for this young woman’s life,” Gonzalez said.
Sanders was allowed to say goodbye to his family, then taken into custody to begin his sentence.
Kathleen A. Scott, 40, La Crosse, was charged Jan. 31 with child abuse intentionally causing bodily harm and felony bail jumping. Scott charged at and pulled the hair of a 13-year-old girl Jan. 27, then called her names including a racial slur, according to the criminal complaint. When released on a signature bond that same day, she returned to the child’s home in violation of her bond conditions, according to a second complaint.
Joshua J. Nelson, 40, Onalaska, was charged Jan. 28 with felony bail jumping. Nelson violated terms of his bond by drinking alcohol Jan. 17, according to the criminal complaint.
Carlie A. Stein, 22, Holmen, was charged Jan. 24 with possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia, both as a repeat offender. Stein had 8 grams of meth in six bags July 24 when she was pulled over for driving in the city with her high beams on, according to the complaint.
Kanong Vang and Shoua Yang
Kanong A. Vang, 31, and Shoua Yang, 36, both with no permanent address, were charged Jan. 23 with felony bail jumping and fraud on innkeeper as a party to a crime. Vang and Yang stayed in an empty room in an Onalaska hotel Jan. 12 without checking in or paying for the room, according to the complaint. Vang was charged in a second complaint with felony bail jumping and retail theft. She switched the price tag of a $149.99 baby monitor with a $3.49 package of cookies at Target and bought the monitor at the self-checkout, then attempted to return it for the full price, according to the complaint.
Ray M. Welcome, 56, La Crosse, was charged Jan. 23 with felony bail jumping. Welcome violated no-contact conditions of his bond Jan. 10, according to the complaint.
Joseph R. Crankshaw, 32, West Salem, was charged Jan. 22 with issuing worthless checks. Crankshaw deposited two $5,000 checks from empty accounts Dec. 4 at Merchants Bank in Onalaska, according to the complaint.
Jessica M. Beck, 34, La Crosse, was charged Jan. 22 with possession of methamphetamine, retail theft and possession of drug paraphernalia, all as a repeat offender. Beck had three bags of meth and a glass pipe Jan. 11 when she was arrested for taking Nike socks and a sweatshirt from Kohls, according to the complaint.
Lindsey A. Miller, 39, of La Crosse, was charged Jan. 22 with possession of a short-barreled shotgun as a party to a crime. Miller had a sawed-off shotgun Dec. 17 in the vehicle she shares with another person, according to the complaint.
Donald E. Norberg II, 39, Sparta, was charged Jan. 16 with attempted uttering a forgery as a repeater and party to a crime. Norberg attempted to deposit a check from a dead man’s account Nov. 11, according to the complaint.
Derek W. Backus, 35, Spring Valley, Minn., was charged Jan. 15 with possession of methamphetamine. Backus had .7 grams of meth when he was pulled over Sept. 7, according to the criminal complaint.
Benjamin L. Britt
Benjamin L. Britt, 46, Viroqua, was charged Jan. 14 with possession of methamphetamine. Britt had meth in his pocket and pants Jan. 3 during a traffic stop, according to the complaint.
Cherish M. Roberts, 25, Holmen, was charged Jan. 13 with possession of methamphetamine, possession of THC and possession of drug paraphernalia. Roberts had meth, marijuana and glass pipes Dec. 27, according to the complaint.
Harold Geanie Jr.
Anita M. Parce, 23, no permanent address, was charged Jan. 10 with possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia. Police found meth and a glass pipe in her bag Dec. 30, according to the complaint.
Louis W. Steele
Louis W. Steele, 35, La Crosse, was charged with felony bail jumping and disorderly conduct. Steele violated terms of a previous bond forbidding new crimes Jan. 4 when he swore and yelled at a woman, according to the criminal complaint.
Delamonte E.L. Hill
Delamonte E.L. Hill, 18, La Crescent, Minn., was charged Jan. 9 with strangulation and suffocation, substantial battery intending bodily harm and disorderly conduct. Hill put his hand around a woman’s neck and squeezed, slammed her head against a door window and punched her, according to the criminal complaint.
Randy Russell Jr.
Timothy A. Kasten, 28, Onalaska, was charged Jan. 8 with retail theft as a party to a crime and felony bail jumping. He was also charged with possession of methamphetamine in a different case. Kasten took several items in December from Menards, violating terms of his bond, and had meth in his pocket when arrested Dec. 21, according to the two complaints.
Karla J. Dank, 58, West Salem, was charged Jan. 7 with possession with intent to deliver THC, obstructing an officer and possession of drug paraphernalia. Dank had 47.2 grams of marijuana Dec. 20, tried to shut the door on police and had a marijuana pipe, according to the complaint.
Jordan M. Weiker
Jordan M. Weiker, 30, La Crosse, was charged Jan. 2 with discharging bodily fluid at a public safety worker, resisting an officer, attempted battery and disorderly conduct. Weiker became belligerent at about 2:17 a.m. Dec. 14 at an Onalaska restaurant and bar, according to the complaint, and swung a bag at a bartender, then poked and spit at a police officer.
Star Yang, 33, Holmen, was charged Jan. 2 with possession of methamphetamine, possession of THC and possession of drug paraphernalia, all as a repeat offender. Yang had 0.06 grams of meth, a meth pipe and marijuana Dec. 27, according to the complaint.
Robert D. Wilson, 25, no permanent address, was charged Jan. 2 with possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia, both as a repeat offender. Wilson was found doing meth in a vehicle at about noon Dec. 30 outside the Salvation Army, according to the complaint, and he handed over meth and two needles to a Salvation Army social worker.
The building at 333 Vine St. is a criminal justice hub. The La Crosse County Courthouse and Law Enforcement Center, which opened in 1997 with …
Jourdan Vian can be reached at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @Jourdan_LCT.
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