Man sentenced for deadly drunken driving crash near Sparta

Kent County
An undated booking photo of Robert Verdier.

An undated booking photo of Robert Verdier.

**Editor’s note: A previous version of this story gave the wrong name for the victim. We apologize for the error.**

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A man who was driving drunk last year when he caused a crash south of Sparta, killing one person, will spend years in a state prison.  

Robert Verdier, 30, was sentenced Wednesday to between 7.5 years and 15 years in prison. He will also pay court costs and a $2,000 fine.

The crash happened May 28, 2020, on M-37 at 10 Mile Road in Alpine Township. Authorities say Verdier’s vehicle crashed into another car that was stopped at a red light.

The scene of a crash on M-37 at 10 Mile Road in Alpine Township. (May 28, 2020)

The driver of the car Verdier hit, 63-year-old Kenneth Nietering, was killed. His wife Emily Nietering, who was in the car when the crash happened, recalled in court trying to shake her husband awake before realizing he was dead.

Kenneth Nietering was a Grand Rapids native but was living in Dearborn after a long career with Ford Motor Co. He and his wife would have celebrated their 40th anniversary this summer. Kenneth Nietering also left behind his parents, three grown sons and a granddaughter.

Verdier pleaded guilty to operating while intoxicated causing death in April. Other charges were dismissed under the terms of a plea agreement.

Crying, he apologized to Emily Nietering during sentencing. He told the court he wants to become a better man.

His attorney said Verdier has struggled with substance abuse. He said he supports his fiancee and her two young children by working at a flooring company and that he also volunteers at his church.

Acknowledging Verdier’s struggle with substance abuse, Judge Curt Benson said the sentence he was imposing was harsh but warranted.

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