COLUMBIA CITY — “This boy will never grow up. He’ll be 17 forever. There’s a giant hole in his family where he used to be, and you put it there,” Judge Matthew said while holding up a picture of Jack Burchett. “While I heard you say the word ‘sorry’ today, I can’t say I think it was sincere.”
Chaise Belcher, 26, of Pierceton, received a 21- year sentence to the Indiana Department of Corrections on charges of operating while intoxicated causing death and two counts of OWI causing bodily injury after running a red light in April. The resulting accident killed Jack Burchett and severely injured the other occupants.
A breathalyzer showed Belcher had a blood-alcohol content of 0.22, well above the legal limit of 0.08, according to court documents.
Prosecutor DJ Sigler pushed for a lengthy sentence, saying “only a significant sentence will do justice.”
Belcher has “a substantial history of substance abuse” and has “failed spectacularly multiple times while on probation,” Sigler said.
“With this many chances to do the right thing, he turned his back every single time,” Sigler said.
Rentschler pulled no punches with Belcher, naming eight different aggravating circumstances. Among these were Belcher’s criminal history, probation violations and the fact that his license was suspended when he caused the accident.
Most troubling to Rentschler, however, was that Belcher grew up with a first-hand understanding of the adverse effects of alcoholism and yet still chose to drink and drive.
“You have an uncle that killed three in a drunk driving accident and had an absent father who was out of your life from being an alcoholic, and yet you still drank,” he said.
Belcher will serve his 21-year sentence consecutive to charges in Elkhart County. Additionally, Rentschler suspended his license for 24 years.
“When you get out, and you will someday get out,” Rentschler told Belcher, “you will not drive.”
In other Whitley Circuit Court news:
• Alec Wilkins, 24, of Columbia City, received a three-year sentence on charges of battery causing bodily injury to a person under the age of 14, a level 5 felony. Wilkins will serve two years at the Indiana Department of Corrections, with one year suspended.
“You need to understand that there are consequences to treating a child like this,” Rentschler said.
• Brenda Bailey, 57, of Hudson, and Charles Sheets, 56, of Coldwater, Mich., pleaded guilty to dealing in and possession of methamphetamine, respectively. Their sentencing hearing is Dec. 4.
• Warren Davies, 35, of Syracuse, pleaded guilty to committing theft in Kosciusko County, a violation of probation. The remainder of his suspended sentence was revoked.
• Colton Cabiya, Billy Crowe, Justin Hammond and Kristine Hart had their respective hearings continued to later dates.