MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A former Lutheran bishop was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison for driving drunk and killing a Wisconsin jogger.
Bruce Burnside, 60, was sentenced Thursday after a nearly eight-hour hearing during which he made his first public comments since the crash more than a year ago, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
Burnside pleaded guilty in May to second-degree reckless homicide in the death of 52-year-old Maureen Mengelt of Sun Prairie. Mengelt was a mother of three and a former Madison police officer.
Burnside was driving to an afternoon church event on April 7, 2013, when he lost control of his vehicle on a highway exit ramp in Sun Prairie and hit Mengelt, who was out for a Sunday training run. Prosecutors alleged that Burnside fled the scene in his vehicle. His defense attorney said Thursday that he pulled over as soon as he could.
Burnside’s blood alcohol concentration was 0.128 percent, above Wisconsin’s 0.08 percent limit for driving.
During the hearing, Burnside said he accepted sole responsibility for what happened but also asserted that he did not flee the scene of the crash or realize he was too impaired by alcohol to drive.
“An innocent lady died because of me,” Burnside said. “That is the very terrible truth.”
Defense attorney John Hyland said a prison term of two to four years would be appropriate. Three people, all clergy members, spoke on Burnside’s behalf and urged leniency.
Nine people spoke on behalf of Mengelt. Among them was her youngest child, Allyson Mengelt, 13.
“I will truly never be fully happy again in my life,” she said.
In sentencing Burnside, Dane County Circuit Judge Nicholas McNamara said he was convinced the former bishop was “of good and solid character” until the crash. But he said Burnside perpetuated deceptions afterward, including denying to an officer that he had been drinking. McNamara said there is “strong” evidence Burnside fled the scene, the newspaper reported.
Burnside’s family declined to comment after the sentencing. Maureen Mengelt’s husband, Kevin Mengelt, called the sentence “reasonable” and “well thought out.”
Burnside was a bishop in the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He stepped down from the position shortly after the crash.
Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj