By KEVIN NEVERS
The Michigan City man who was driving drunk when his pickup truck jumped a
median on U.S. Highway 20 in Porter last year and collided head-on with
Tracey Hall’s car, killing her, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
At around 9:57 p.m. May 16, 2003, James A. Kelley, 45, was eastbound on U.S.
20, about 257 feet east of Worthington Drive, when his pickup went airborne
and struck the westbound car driven by Hall, 35, a resident of Porter, a
dispatcher with the Portage Police Department, and the mother of a young son
Police say that Kelley registered a blood alcohol content of .275 percent at
the time of the cash, more than three times the legal limit of .08 percent.
Kelley was originally charged in a nine-count indictment but in August
agreed to plead guilty to causing death while operating while intoxicated
with a prior conviction within five years, a Class B felony punishable by a
term of six to 20 years in prison. On Friday Porter Superior Court Judge
Bill Alexa sentenced Kelley in accordance with that plea agreement: to 10
years in the Department of Corrections and on his release from prison to a
further 10 years on probation.
Alexa also suspended Kelley’s driver’s license for five years, beginning
with his release from prison, and ordered him to submit to an alcohol
evaluation and treatment program while on probation.
With good-time credit, Kelley will be eligible for release after serving
half of his sentence, or five years.
Prior to sentencing, Hall’s sister, Dawn Haskell, read a victim’s impact
statement in court in which she made her feelings about Kelley abundantly
clear. “I have never hated anyone in the true sense of the word until now,”
according to a copy of the statement provided to the Chesterton Tribune by
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mike Drenth. “Do I hate you, James Kelley? Yes,
I do. Unfortunately, fear, anger, and a sense of injury have all come into
my life since May 16, 2003, when you made the decision to get behind the
wheel after drinking. The main fear I have is that my niece and nephew will
grow up to become hateful as adults and not be able to see the good in
people even when it exists. They will grow up without a mother who loved and
adored them. Tracey gave 100 percent to make sure these kids had everything
they needed. She was a great mother and a kind generous person. You took
Hall’s mother, Dana Nalley read a statement as well. “We have to live each
day through this cruel, atrocious continuous nightmare never knowing what
tomorrow will bring,” she said. “Should I be saying ‘Thanks for the
Memories’? Because that is all we have left.”