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Drunk Driver Gets 40 Years For Killing Girl

June 29, 2012, 6:02 PM by Brady Mallory

Drunk Driver Gets 40 Years For Killing Girl

A Davison County Judge sentenced 46-year-old Michael Sedlmeier to 40 years in prison. 

The Mitchell man led police on a chase at speeds of 59 miles per hour through town in March.  He ran a stop sign and hit an SUV carrying several children, including Iszabella "Bella" Morgan, who was ejected from the vehicle and killed.

Sedlmeier may have lost the next 40 years of his freedom, but Bella's family said they are in worse shape.

"No amount of time that he will get will bring her back.  He will get to see his children and family.  But we will never see her again.  We have to go to the cemetery," Bella's mother Jeanie Morgan said.

A group of more than 20 people filled the small courtroom, all dressed in t-shirts with the little girl's picture printed on the front to honor such a big life. 

Her grandma remembered the past.

"No matter where we'd go, she knew somebody," Bella's grandmother Pat Anderson said, calling her granddaughter a, "social butterfly." 

It was not all fond memories, however. While reading her statement in court, Jeanie mourned what will never be.

"We will not have a prom, graduation or any weddings." she said.

The Davison County State's Attorney asked that Sedlmeier get a minimum of 40 years. 

Sedlmeier did not speak for himself, but his defense attorney said Sedlmeier's troubled childhood led to a lifetime of alcohol abuse.  She spent time showing Sedlmeier as a flawed human being.

"He didn't wake up that morning with a decision, making a decision to go out and take the life of a young girl," Sedlmeier's Attorney Donna Bucher said.

But Judge Sean O'Brien said Sedlmeier did make the decision to drink, speed through town, and run away from the scene of the deadly car crash.  With his multiple past drunk driving convictions, this is his third DUI in South Dakota, the father of two's decisions caught up with him.

"When they talk about getting second chances, well, you've gotten a lot of second chances, but you don't seem to learn from your previous mistakes," O'Brien said.

It will not help heal the big hole in their hearts, but keeping small tokens like Bella's wallet, still filled with the $2 she was going to use to buy candy on the day she died, and a bracelet she wore, help her family and friends find comfort.  As they try to make sense of the senseless, they hope Bella's short life has a never ending message.

"I hope everyone from this learns to not drink and drive, because it not only affects the person going to jail, but it affects families and it tore our family apart," Jeanie said.

In another statement, Jeanie thanked the Mitchell community and surrounding communities for the outpouring of support. 

In addition to his 40 years, Sedlmeier will also serve another two years concurrently for his third DUI and is ordered to pay restitution to Bella's family.

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