GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A man on Monday learned his fate for a crash last summer that killed one 15-year-old and severely injured another.
Ryan Michael Carter was sentenced to a minimum of 16 years, 8 months and a maximum of 30 years in prison.
“For me, any sentence will be too little,” Mirelis Roque said. “A person like that should spend his life in jail because he’s a danger to people outside. He can put the lives of many other people in danger.”
Her daughter Mirelis Culbeaux, then 15, was in the pickup truck that Carter was driving when it crashed on US-131 near the I-196 interchange last July. She was seriously injured: She has had 14 surgeries, can’t speak or move on her own and is expecting more surgeries in the future.
“Her life will never be the same,” Roque said. “I’m still getting pieces of glass out of her skin and back.”
Three other teens were also in the vehicle, including 15-year-old Clifford Irving Benson, who died at the scene. His sister and father provided victim statements during the sentencing hearing. They both spoke of the grief and void their family has been experiencing since the tragedy.
“How does this impact my family as victims?” his father asked. “I’m devastated by the loss of my son, my blood, my branch, my family tree.”
Carter was intoxicated and left the scene after the crash. Police later found him walking nearby and he was ultimately charged. Benson and Roque expressed their disappointment at the judicial system because he was later released on a $2,000 bond.
Carter pleaded no contest in April to four charges against him, including drunken driving and failing to stop at the scene of a crash. Then in May, while out on bond and awaiting sentencing, Carter got into another crash and again left the scene. That played a role in Judge George Quist’s decision to impose consecutive sentencing.
“It appears Mr. Carter has no regard for the law and for the public’s safety in general,” Quist said.
Carter’s defense attorney spoke on his behalf, saying his defendant has had nightmares and the crash haunts him. Offered the chance to speak, Carter looked at the victims families and said he was sorry, that he takes full responsibility and that he didn’t mean for any of this to happen.
One of Carter’s family members left the court room expressing frustration at the long sentence. He said they plan to appeal the decision.