Tracy Gordon sentenced after being found guilty of reckless homicide in 2019 Lake Murray boat crash

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Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 1:19 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A Midlands man will spend 10 years in prison for crashing his boat into another family’s boat on Lake Murray in 2019, killing one man and leaving the man’s wife and daughter injured.

Officials said Tracy Gordon was “materially and appreciably impaired” when he hit the Kiser family’s boat on September 21, 2019, after drinking at least eight beers.

The Kiser family’s patriarch, Stanley “Stan” Kiser, lost his life in the wreck.

His wife, Shawn, had to have a leg amputated, and his daughter Morgan suffered head injuries.

On Wednesday, after nine hours of deliberations, a jury acquitted Gordon on two counts of felony boating under the influence but found him guilty of reckless homicide by operation of a boat.

Judge Heath Taylor handed down the maximum sentence on the reckless homicide charge to Gordon Thursday, exactly four years after the crash.

He told Gordon it was both a blessing and a curse that he was presiding over this trial: a blessing because he understands this evidence well after spending decades as a defense attorney working on DUI cases in Richland and Lexington counties, but a curse because he understands it so well that he knows how impaired Gordon was that night.

“I speak the language of this case,” he said, addressing Gordon. “You were impaired that night, very impaired by some measures.”

Taylor told Gordon that he “got lucky” that his blood alcohol content was not admitted as evidence during the trial.

While the Kiser family is thankful for the 10-year sentence, they believe Gordon should have been convicted of the BUI charge and gotten a more severe 25-year sentence.

“I’m so sorry the jury didn’t have access to all the information that was out there,” Shawn Kiser said following the sentencing.

The family believes that if this evidence were admitted, it would have changed the outcome.

Jurors did not hear this evidence because the officer with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources did not sign the affidavit submitted to a judge, which made the search warrant to test his blood defective.

Members of Gordon’s defense team, Jack Swerling, and Joe McCulloch, addressed the media following the sentencing.

On the exclusion of the blood alcohol content, Swerling said, “The law is what it’s supposed to be and it applies to him as well as anybody else.”

If it were admitted, McCulloch indicated that Gordon’s lawyers were prepared to challenge that evidence.

Prior to sentencing, the members of the Kiser family, including Shawn and her two daughters, Morgan and Sloan, addressed the court and powerfully pleaded for the maximum sentence.

Morgan said Gordon “stole her dad,” and she has not slept in four years.

“He should be getting the bigger sentence but the blood alcohol level wasn’t shown to the jury so please give him the 10-year sentence because he took my dad’s life from me, he left my mom and I there to die, and he’s destroyed my family.”

Shawn mentioned the fact that Gordon did not return to check on the Kisers immediately following the wreck.

“Stan was slaughtered, and my legs were butchered,” she said. “Who can run over someone and ignore the screams of my daughter, begging for help? Why didn’t you help us? My husband’s life can’t be restored, my leg will never grow back.”

Taylor admonished Gordon for not apologizing to the Kiser family as well.

Gordon turned to address the Kisers during the sentencing, offering his condolences and prayers to them.

He said he and his wife Angie pray for them “every single day.”

Sloan Kiser spoke about the pain of losing her father.

Her wedding had been set for October 2019.

“I didn’t get to have a wedding on that October day,” she said, sobbing. “Instead of what should have been the happiest day of my life, it was the most painful day of my life. Instead of walking down the aisle in my father’s arms in a white dress, I walked down an aisle behind his casket dressed in black.”

The Kiser family has been instrumental in helping to strengthen the state’s boating safety law following the crash.

Fifth Circuit Solicitor Byron Gipson said this is an opportunity for Stan Kiser’s legacy to continue to grow.

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