Chesterton Tribune

Drunk driver sentenced to 10 years for Hall's death

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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 and daughter.

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 that away.”

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.”


Posted 11/15/2004