Alcohol loosens one’s inhibitions and judgment. This is a case where one man’s poor decisions resulted in a fatal accident that took the life of his wife, got him sent to prison, and left two young children without their parents.
From the Atlanta Journal Constitution (story by Daphne Duret):
Calling it one of “the most senseless, tragic acts” she’s ever come across, a Palm Beach County judge sentenced a 33-year-old Loxahatchee husband and father to five years in prison Wednesday for a 2014 wreck that killed his wife as they had sex while he drove drunk.
The sentence for Matthew Notebaert came just over three years after the death of his wife, Amanda, in a crash that left their two children without a mother and caused a deep rift between the couple’s families that even on Wednesday had her closest friends and relatives split into two camps…
They’d begun drinking from a small flask of Crown Royal they’d sneaked into the concert in her purse, he said, and as they headed back to the area of their Loxahatchee home they called friends looking to hang out. Then at one point they pulled over and became intimate.
By the time he drove on Southern Boulevard, Notebaert said, his wife was sitting in his lap, and his next memory after a turn of the wheel was of waking up in a crashed car next to her body.
Investigators say Notebaert turned onto East Stallion Drive at about 12:30 a.m. and drove the couple’s Chevrolet Equinox at speeds of 55 miles per hour in a 30-mph zone, blowing past three red signs on the dirt road warning of a canal ahead.
The couple’s car hit the canal back so hard, according to arrest reports, that the SUV went airborne for 30 feet and came to rest on the opposite bank of the canal. Amanda Notebaert’s head hit the dashboard and windshield. She died at the scene.
A toxicology report from after the crash stated Matthew Notebaert’s blood alcohol content was nearly twice the level at which Florida drivers are presumed impaired, and investigators said he also had marijuana in his system.
“You had a responsibility to get your wife home safely,” Amanda’s father, Mike Stacey, told Notebaert before asking Johnson to give his son-in-law the “maximum allowable sentence.”
But even prosecutors said under the circumstances, the 10-year minimum recommended under sentencing guidelines was too harsh.
Notebaert’s attorney, Stehpen Bell, asked for no jail time at all, hoping Johnson would award Notebaert probation and keep him with the couple’s now 12-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter.
Assistant State Attorney Danielle Sherriff, on the other hand, echoed Stacey’s sentiments and said Notebaert bares the blame because he was driving. Sheriff said a prison sentence was necessary and asked for a seven-year term.
In the end, Johnson noted Notebaert’s criminal history, saying he has been accused in the past of reckless driving and leaving the scene of a crash. Notebaert’s list of prior cases includes five felonies, Johnson said, and a prosecutor at his May 2014 bail hearing listed previous charges that included cocaine possession, burglary and grand theft.
“This isn’t your first chance. You’ve been to jail before, you’ve been on probation,” Johnson said, adding: “You failed your wife, you failed your children and you failed all your family that is here today.”