Father sentenced to prison after son drowns in icy pool

Ottawa County

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — A Hudsonville-area father and former Grand Rapids Community College professor will serve time in a state prison for the 2019 drowning death of his teen son, who had autism.

On Monday, Timothy Koets was sentenced to two to 15 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter and one year behind bars for fourth-degree child abuse. He received credit for two days served for each of the counts.

His son Sam Koets, 16, who had the cognitive ability of a 2-year-old, died in March 2019. Sam drowned after getting into the family’s icy above-ground pool, where he remained for an hour.

Samuel Koets
A courtesy image of Samuel Koets.

Authorities say Koets’ daughter had texted him a photo of Sam in the pool and he replied, “Make sure the freak is OK.” In January 2020, Koets told “Inside Edition” in an interview that “freak” was a fun-hearted nickname.

“Sam had value,” Judge Jon Hulsing said when handing down Koets’ sentence, “and the sanction will not restore Sam, but it will recognize that all humans have value, and because of the neglect you committed, a valuable human has lost his life.”

After their son’s death, authorities say, Koets and his wife Michelle Koets continued to fill their son’s Ritalin prescription and used the drugs themselves.

Timothy Koets pleaded guilty in December to involuntary manslaughter, child abuse and obtaining a controlled substance by fraud. Under the terms of a plea agreement, four other counts were dismissed.

In addition to his prison terms linked to the death, Koets was sentenced Monday to between two and four years in prison in the Ritalin case. Michelle Koets was previously sentenced to a short term in jail.

When given the opportunity to address the court Monday, Timothy Koets said he asked for forgiveness from God, his family and his community.

He went on to say he and his wife managed their son’s autism as well as they could and that their home was a place of love. He said he wants to write a book about his experience to help other families and prevent them from making the mistakes he did.

The judge noted he had received several letters from Koets’ family members, his co-workers and members of his church on his behalf.

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