Drunk driver sentenced to spend teen victim’s birthday in jail

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WAUPACA, Wis. (WBAY) – A Waupaca County woman who struck and killed an 18-year-old man will spend his birthday in jail, as well as the anniversary of the day she hit Dylan and every Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, for the next 10 years.

A judge sentenced 40-year-old Heather Schmidt on Wednesday for the death of Dylan Thorne three years ago.

Prosecutors say Schmidt’s blood-alcohol level measured twice the legal limit after she hit Thorne’s car, killing the recent Iola-Scandinavia graduate. She pleaded no contest to homicide while driving under the influence, which could have carried up to 25 years in prison.

The judge said Schmidt needs to suffer punishment, and sentenced her to one year in jail followed by 10 years on probation, followed by the next nine birthdays, anniversaries and Christmases.

Before Schmidt’s sentence was handed down, members of the Thorne family spoke to the judge about who Dylan was, who they lost, and asked for some kind of incarceration.

“I pray that you don’t make Dylan’s life worth nothing by giving her less than 10 years incarceration,” said Liz Thorne, Dylan’s mother. “No parent wants to hear that their child’s life was only worth three or five years.”

Through tears, Schmidt addressed the court, looking at Dylan’s family

“I just want to tell the family how sorry I am for everything you’ve had to go through,” Schmidt said. “I don’t expect forgiveness from anyone, I can’t even give it to myself.”

After the sentence was announced, members of the Thorne family appeared shocked.

“There’s no excuse, there’s no excuse for what the judge gave her,” said Bonnie Thorne, Dylan’s grandmother. “This idea that because you’re in Wisconsin, it makes it okay, that’s bull. It doesn’t make it okay, not one tiny bit.”

“How are we supposed to feel?” asked Liz Thorne. “Our 18-year-old son is gone. We were not there to protect him. I feel like I failed him again.”

Dylan’s mother says something needs to be done to stop people from getting behind the wheel intoxicated.

“We’re just showing our kids that, go ahead, drink, drive, you get a slap on the wrist,” said Liz Thorne, “you can even kill somebody, and you won’t get much out of it.”

After her release from jail, Schmidt will report back to the jail every February 10 — Thorne’s birthday — and July 19 — the date of the crash. She won’t be allowed work-release privileges on those dates.

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