GREENVILLE — A Minster, Ohio, man will serve three years in prison for a vehicular death caused by drunk driving.
Dean M. Bornhorst, 25, was sentenced to two concurrent three-year prison sentences in Darke County Common Pleas Court Monday. He earlier pleaded guilty to a second-degree felony count of Aggravated Vehicular Homicide, a third-degree felony count of Aggravated Vehicular Assault, and a first-degree misdemeanor count of Driving Under the Influence.
The Darke County Prosecutor’s Office dropped three additional charges in exchange for the guilty plea.
On Sept. 11, 2016, near North Star, Ohio, Bornhorst rear-ended the vehicle driven by Steven L. Knapke, 65, of Yorkshire, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Knapke’s wife, Lois, was seriously injured in the crash. Two passengers in Bornhorst’s vehicle were treated and released at the scene.
Tearful family members of both the victim and the defendant were present in court as Common Pleas Court Judge Jonathan Hein handed down the sentence.
Bornhorst was represented by defense attorney Andrew Pratt. The prosecution was represented by Assistant Prosecutor Jesse Green.
Pratt offered his condolences to Knapke’s family and said his client accepted full responsibility for his actions from the start.
“This was never a case in which Dean or his family came to me and said ‘We want him to get out of this. Find a loophole. Find a way to get Dean out of this.’ That was never the strategy from the beginning,” he said.
“We acknowledge that his actions on this day were inexcusable. He’s going to have to live with those decisions for rest of his live,” Pratt added. “It’s really impossible to see any good coming from a tragic accident like this.”
Doug Knapke, son of the victim, addressed the court speaking on behalf of his mother and three sisters, saying Bornhorst had “robbed” them of a father, husband and grandfather.
“This act has shaken our family to the core. Not only have we endured the loss of our dad, we have watched our mother suffer beyond what we thought was possible,” he said. “Even [though] through the grace of God her life was spared, we now have a different mother. Not only did she break her back, she experienced the death of the man she loved. She never lost consciousness, so she saw everything.”
Knapke said the family was not seeking vengeance, but hoped the sentence would serve as a deterrent to other drunk drivers.
“There’s no punishment that’s going to bring our father back to us,” he said. “However, we want the sentence to be fair to our father and serve as a deterrent.”
Bornhorst expressed his remorse to the Knapke family, saying he would understand if they did not forgive him, because he would never be able to forgive himself.
“I want you to know that I am so sorry,” he said, pausing to collect his emotions. “I have prayed for your family and all the grief that I have caused.”
In handing down his sentence, Judge Hein spoke not only to the defendant, but also to Bornhorst’s family and the family of Steven Knapke.
“There’s no ‘fair’ outcome,” he said. “If there’s any common bond coming out of this case, it’s grief. The competing sobs are equal, the left side of the room and the right side of the room. There’s no shortage of pain.”
Bornhorst was escorted by Darke County Sheriff’s deputies to immediately begin serving his sentence. In addition to three years imprisonment, his driver’s license was revoked and he will be required to pay court costs.
The writer may be reached at 937-569-4314. Join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com
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