Former Bradley student sentenced to 14 years in prison for DUI crash that killed 2
A Farmington woman was sentenced Thursday to 14 years in prison for a fatal DUI crash that left two people dead.
Stephanie Melgoza, 24, pleaded guilty to two counts each of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol and aggravated reckless driving in February.
Melgoza must serve at least 85% of her sentence. She'll get credit for two days served in the Tazewell County Jail and additional home confinement time served since the Jan. 1 passage of the SAFE-T Act.
Prosecutors said the vehicle Melgoza was driving struck and killed 55-year-old Paul Prowant of Avon Lake, Ohio, Andrea Rosewicz, 43, of Seattle, Washington outside the Throttle Bar and Grill on an East Peoria access road off North Main Street last April.
East Peoria Police officer Jeffrey Bieber told the court on Thursday that Melgoza admitted at the scene that she struck Prowant and Rosewicz. Bieber said she also had slurred speech, watery eyes, and a strong alcohol odor on her breath. Court records also indicate Melgoza said she was speeding about 10 miles over the posted limit.
An open bottle of Tito's vodka and cannabis were found in her vehicle. Court records say Melgoza admitted she'd had three vodka drinks before getting into her car.
The crash happened weeks before graduation. Melgoza received her degree from Bradley University, but was not allowed to participate in commencement after an outcry from the student body.
Rosewicz's sister, Sherri Hutchinson, asked the court to impose the maximum sentence of 28 years. She said she had no words to inflict the same amount of pain that Melgoza has inflicted upon the families of Prowant and Rosewicz.
"You have destroyed multiple families with your selfishness," she said, adding she believes Melgoza has "zero consideration" for other people.
Jennifer Prowant, Paul Prowant's sister-in-law, also asked for no leniency.
"It was her decision (to drive drunk), and she should be held accountable," she said.
Melgoza remained expressionless throughout the family's prepared statements, but was wringing her hands under the table and appeared to be shaking. At one point, her attorney reached over to comfort her.
Melgoza opted to address the families of the victims in open court. She tearfully apologized multiple times for her actions.
"I will live with this every day, and I will try to live for all of us," she said.
Melgoza's defense attorney, Kevin Sullivan, asked for a lighter judgment. He noted that Melgoza called 911 following the crash, and cooperated with authorities throughout the process.
"She never set out to do this. She will regret this for the rest of her life," Sullivan said.
Sullivan said Melgoza wants to go public with her story and discourage others from driving drunk after her release from prison.
"I don't expect this sentence to please anyone, but it is most just," said Tazewell County traffic court Judge Tim Cusack, asking for people to remember the names of the victims.