A drunk driver who killed a man in a hit-and-run accident has been sentenced to 120 days in jail, a penalty that the victim's family believes is too light.
Ronald O’Kelly, 24, reportedly ran a red light in April 2013 and hit a motorcycle being driven by Leroy “Buddy” Bronson. The crash killed Bronson on the spot and O’Kelly took off, abandoning his truck about 500 feet from the accident, KSHB Kansas City reports.
The suspect has had past DUI convictions, but only received 120 days in jail for this particular crime because he fled and police were unable to test the amount of alcohol in his blood. As a result, prosecutors could not prove that he was drunk when he crashed into Bronson's motorcycle, WFSB reports.
Prosecutors also lost a potential witness – O’Kelly’s girlfriend at the time of the incident – after the driver married her, preventing her from having to testify against her new husband. His now-wife was allegedly on the phone with O’Kelly at the time of the crash and told her father afterward that he was drunk.
O’Kelly told the Bronson family he was “super sorry about what happened” and confessed that he thinks about what he did every single day. He pleaded guilty to fleeing the scene and involuntary manslaughter while intoxicated. He was sentenced to 120 days with a seven-year suspended prison sentence. If he violates his probation terms, he could serve seven full years in prison.
Bronson’s son, Tyler, is not satisfied with this sentence. The man also lost his mother and 11-year-old sister in a car crash involving a drunk driver on the Fourth of July in 2011. The driver in that crash is serving 15 years in prison.
“This is horrible,” Tyler Bronson said. “This is disgusting. What is our judicial system saying? Drink? Drive? Kill somebody? Run! You’re fine.”
Bronson is calling for Missouri to enact stricter drunk-driving laws.
A prosecutor in the case issued the following statement:
The Bronson family over the last three years has had to endure two horrific and unimaginable tragedies. Two years ago, the man responsible for the deaths of Diane Bronson and 11-year-old Anna was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Today, the man responsible for the second of these tragedies was sentenced to seven years, pursuant State Statue 559.115. We share the frustration of the victim’s family with today’s outcome in the Buddy Bronson case. But the outcome was driven by the evidence available to the state.