A Michigan man who plowed his pick-up truck through a pack of bicyclists, killing five, was sentenced to 40 years in prison on Monday.
Charles Pickett Jr. had just come from his cousin’s funeral and was high on pain killing pills on June 7, 2016, when he struck the cyclists, killing three women and two men, according to the Associated Press. Pickett, 52, will be eligible for parole, but only if he survives decades in prison.
“I’ll live with this the rest of my life,” Pickett told Kalamazoo County Judge Paul Bridenstine. “I would give my life for the people I murdered, killed and maimed, and I just want to say I’m sorry.”
Judge Bridenstine told Pickett his apology was not sufficient. “The loss is massive and immeasurable. ... You selfishly and unnecessarily murdered five people and altered the lives of four others” Bridenstine said, the Associated Press reported.
The lengthy prison sentence Pickett received was a result of his conviction of five counts of second degree murder, a rare charge for motorists who kill cyclists. A Michigan State Police officer testified that a blood test given to Pickett after his arrest revealed painkillers and methamphetamine, the Associated Press reported.
Pickett tried to have the murder charges thrown out, but the Michigan Court of Appeals declined to hear his appeal.
After the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board found that the crash could possibly have been prevented, because three calls to police, beginning 30 minutes before the crash, reported a reckless driver. Police from neighboring jurisdictions were not informed. “Had [dispatchers] shared information more effectively, police officers from adjoining jurisdictions might have had sufficient time to intercept the driver before the collision with the cyclists,” the NTSB said, according to the Associated Press.
Cyclists and attorneys across the country closely watched Pickett’s trial, to see if the murder charges against him would be upheld, Bicycling magazine reported.
Prosecutors and police are realizing that “these types of events are not just unfortunate accidents, but serious events worthy of criminal prosecution,” Maine cycling attorney Lauri Boxer-Macomber told the magazine.
“This is important because as the public continues to see that prosecutors are taking dangerous driving around cyclists seriously, social norms begin to change, and people start driving more carefully around bicyclists,” Boxer-Macomber said.
[Photo: Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Department]