Jail booking photos from May 2013.
Jail booking photos from May 2013.
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Updated: Thursday, 03 Jan 2013, 8:39 AM CST
Published : Wednesday, 02 Jan 2013, 10:21 AM CST
MANITOWOC - A Whitelaw teen has been sentenced to four years in prison for a crash that killed two other teens.
"This is not a case where a time out is an adequate punishment," said Manitowoc County Circuit Court Judge Gary Bendix.
In October, Zachary Gauthier, 18, plead no contest and was found guilty on two felony counts of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle. The other charges of bail jumping and driving a vehicle without the owner's consent were dismissed, but read in to the conviction.
The case stems from a March 2012 car crash that killed 16-year-olds Zachary Zahn and Chelsie Harding. The three were riding in stolen vehicle, driven by Gauthier, in March of this past year. District Attorney Mark Rohrer says the car was traveling 80-90 mph when it crashed.
Days before that incident, Gauthier crashed his own car.
"Tougher handling will deter this kind of conduct. It will send a message, clear and simple," said Bendix.
In court Wednesday, Gauthier – dressed in black pants, shirt and tie with long shaggy black hair – occasionally showed visible emotion.
Before the sentence was handed down, Harding and Zahn's parents had hardhearted words for Gauthier.
"I will never see my son's face again, or hear his voice," said Zachary Zahn’s mother Kristy Zahn. "You had the responsibility to influence Zachary and Chelsie in a positive way," she said through tears. "Unfortunately, these two 16-year-old kids had to pay the ultimate price for you to learn your lesson."
"I hope you enjoyed your holiday," said Richard Harding, looking across the aisle at Gauthier, his eyes red from tears. "I truly do. My family hopes you enjoyed your holiday, because the holiday's over, young man. Now, the real-life is going to begin for you."
After Gauthier's attorney read a written statement from Gauthier, the 18-year-old addressed the families of Zahn and Harding.
"I really wish I could change the past and you guys could have them back," said Gauthier, his voice quivering with emotion.
Bendix sentenced Gauthier to two years of initial confinement for each felony count, to be served consecutively to one another – serving a total of four years. Upon release, he will be under extended supervision for a total of 10 years. Among the terms of his supervised release, Gauthier will be required to speak to youth about the dangers of reckless driving and must also visit Harding and Zahn's gravesites on their birthdays.
Rohrer says the case will hopefully act as a message.
"If you're going to act in this fashion, as Mr. Gauthier did, that the consequence is prison,” said Rohrer after the hearing. “I think that it's necessary so that we can protect other young people from being killed."
"You got to keep an eye on your kids at all times,” an emotional Harding told FOX 11. “Because it doesn't take but a split second – and they're gone."
Gauthier's family declined to comment after the hearing.
It's unknown if Gauthier will be given credit for the time served under house arrest.