By Liz Shepherd
WARSAW — A Rochester man will serve four years in prison after driving while intoxicated and injuring a woman in a traffic accident.
Dennis Edward Bradley, 32, 6753 N. Railroad St., Rochester, was charged with causing serious bodily injury when operating a vehicle with an ACE of .08 or more, a level 4 felony. A residential entry case and three additional criminal charges were all dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
Bradley was sentenced in Kosciusko Superior Court Three on Tuesday, Aug. 31, with Special Judge Torrey Bauer presiding.
On Aug. 2, 2020, a Warsaw Police officer was in the area of North Detroit Street when he saw a speeding driver traveling north in a Chevrolet Avalanche. The officer noticed the Avalanche was attempting to merge from the right lane to the left lane. While the officer sought an opening in traffic to pull out and attempt to catch up with the Avalanche, he heard a loud crash. The Avalanche slid to a stop in the middle of Detroit Street, just south of Canal Street.
According to court documents, the Avalanche had heavy front-end damage. The officer heard screaming children and saw a Jeep Grand Cherokee with heavy rear-end damage that had come to a stop in a parking lot.
The Jeep’s driver, Kelsey Wertenberger, sustained head trauma due to the crash. She also reported experiencing loss of consciousness.
The officer then spoke with Bradley, who was driving the Avalanche. When asked how the crash occurred, Bradley said Wertenberger’s vehicle had pulled out in front of him. The officer noticed Bradley’s eyes were bloodshot and could smell alcohol on his breath.
Results of a certified chemical test show that at the time of the crash, Bradley had an ACE of .11. At the time of the accident, he had a prior OWI conviction which occurred in March 2019.
During court proceedings, Wertenberger testified on how the accident has greatly impacted her life. Since the crash, Wertenberger said she’s undergone two shoulder surgeries and had to resign from a job due to absences that were related to her medical issues.
She also told the court she had to sell her home to pay off medical bills.
“Over the last year, things have not been easy,” said Wertenberger. “It’s affected me in so many ways.”
Wertenberger told the court she has $48,717.12 in out-of-pocket expenses as a result of the accident.
Defense Attorney Austin Rovenstine said cases like Bradley’s are difficult, especially when injuries are involved. He said Bradley has accepted responsibility for his actions and is remorseful. Letters of support for Bradley also elaborated on his remorse.
“All he can do is own the decisions he made that led to these injuries,” said Rovenstine.
In discussions on restitution, Rovenstine presented a $1,175 check from a trust account to the court. He said the check was money that Bradley has paid to him to put toward Wertenberger’s restitution. Rovenstine also showed objections to several small receipts that were submitted as restitution evidence.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mark Caruso emphasized the matter not being Bradley’s first OWI case and also noted other instances of Bradley speeding or engaging in reckless driving.
For causing serious bodily injury when operating a vehicle with an ACE of .08 or more, Judge Bauer sentenced Bradley to 10 years in the Indiana Department of Corrections. Four years will be executed and the final six years were suspended on probation. Bradley’s driver’s license was also suspended for six years. He was recommended for the Recovery While Incarcerated program for his DoC sentence.
In regards to restitution, Judge Bauer ordered Bradley to pay $47,593.22 to Wertenberger.