Decorated military veteran sentenced in 2008 SC fatal collision

By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

SUMTER, SC (WIS) - A woman who decided to drive drunk and caused a crash that killed a 12-year-old child will spend the next 12 years in prison.

The deadly crash happened two years ago in Sumter County. 12-year old Christian Schmidt was killed when the truck he and his father were traveling in was hit by a car driving in the wrong direction. That car was driven by 49-year-old Dianne Brown.

Both Brown's family and Christian's were in court Thursday as Brown pled guilty.

It was just about impossible to quantify the pain in the Sumter courtroom. For Christian's family, "I have been brought to my knees and I can't get up," said mother Tina Schmidt.

The emotional wreckage on display was created by Brown, who is a decorated 23-year Air Force veteran that commanded troops in Iraq. She pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon to two counts of felony DUI. Both of those counts stem from a September 2008 collision between Brown's VW and a pickup truck, containing Christian and his father. The head-on crash threw Christian onto the roadway, killing him. His father, Paul, suffered permanent shoulder and foot injuries.

Brown was from Ohio and in Sumter on business. Investigators said she'd been at a Sumter Chili's restaurant with friends, drinking wine, glass after glass. Suddenly, she excused herself, got in her car and began driving the wrong way on Highway 378. Then the crash occurred. Brown's blood alcohol tested at .215. "I want to admit my guilt, and I want to apologize to Paul Schmidt and Tina Berry and everyone for the pain I cause them," said Brown, "And I hope they will believe that I'm truly remorseful. I'm really not the kind of maybe the monster they think I am."

"I feel so cheated," said Tina, "And maybe that's so selfish of me because Christian is the one who was cheated the most.

Judge George James sentenced Brown to 12 years and almost $54,000 in fines and fees. Her plea means there will be no trial, which had been scheduled to begin next week.

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