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DUI Crash Victim's Father Reacts To Vehicular Homicide Sentence

Gregg Spindler

The family of one victim in a violent car crash nearly two years ago says the punishment for the driver is insufficient. This week Ron Fischer, Junior was sentenced for vehicular homicide in two deaths. The judge ordered the maximum sentence, but the victim’s father says that isn’t enough.

In July of 2013, a drunk driver ran a stop sign near Pickstown, drove the minivan into a parking lot, and slammed into two people. US Fish and Wildlife workers 46-year-old Robert Klumb and 25-year-old Maegan Spindler both died in the gruesome crash.

Driver Ron Fischer Junior is sentenced to 30 years in prison for the deaths. But Maegan Spindler’s father Gregg says the driver should have been convicted of a higher charge, and he disagrees that his daughter’s grisly killing wasn’t legally violent.

"South Dakota’s criminal statutes state that vehicular homicide is not a crime of violence, and, as a consequence, because he has no prior felony convictions, he’s eligible for parole after serving 30 percent of that 30 years, which translates to nine years," Spindler says.

Spindler and his family travel from their home in New York. He says South Dakota cannot afford to put off examining DUI protocols.

"We don’t want to wait until bodies are stacked up before we deliver credible deterrants to the public in general," Spindler says.

Spindler says that happens by strictly enforcing laws and increasing penalties on both first-time offenders and people who repeatedly drink  and driving. Spindler says South Dakota needs to acknowledge its problem with DUI crimes.

"South Dakota consistently performs worse than the national average," Spindler says. "If South Dakota were to perform at the national average, 2013 when my daughter was killed, there would have been approximately 27 deaths instead of 42. That’s 15 lives that might still be here with us."

Spindler says he doesn’t like to visit the state where his daughter died, but he plans to return if driver Ron Fisher Junior tries to attain a lesser sentence or if lawmakers attempt to make substantial changes in the law to curb deaths and injuries from DUIs.

The victim's father says he wants lawmakers and Governor Dennis Daugaard to prove they understand that drunk driving directly causes human suffering.

"His son-in-law and spokesman sends out words of condolences and expressions of sympathy, and that’s all well and good, but let’s face it: talk is cheap," Spindler says. "Enforcing DUI is not cheap, and somebody’s got to step up to the plate and actually fund it."

Spindler says he has suggestions to cover the costs of alcohol-related trauma, including increasing the tax on alcohol. Spindler says South Dakota is one of just two states without a law that holds businesses responsible when they supply alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person.

When contacted about this story, Tony Venhuizen with the governor’s office writes, "This is a very sad situation and the governor’s heart goes out to the Spindler and Klumb families."

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).