Single Mom Gets 18 Years for Drunken Driving Death

By: Dana Brueck Email
By: Dana Brueck Email

Posted Tuesday, March 10, 2009 --- 10:00 p.m.

A single mom from Lake Mills will spend the next 18 years in prison. The woman was sentenced today in Jefferson County for homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle.

The deadly crash in May of last year killed 30-year-old Trisha Kerr.

"This is the worst mistake I've ever made in my life," Jennifer Yelk says.

Yelk's mistake is sending her to prison for 18 years.

"There will never be enough words to express how sorry I am for the loss of a daughter, wife, sister, friend."

Prosecutors say Yelk's blood alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit when she killed 30-year-old Trisha Kerr. In court, Kerr's family asked for a maximum sentence of 25 years.

"It seems as though our lives have stopped ...our desk calendar stopped May 8th ... a heartbreaking life sentence has been put on our family... There should be no less of a sentence put on Jennifer Yelk... anything short of that would be Jennifer Yelk getting away with murder," Kerr's mother says.

"The defendant has had so many opportunities to change her lifestyle and habits that it seems as though there will never be a change made to avoid this without the defendant staying out of general population," John Kerr, Trisha's husband, says.

Yelk, a mother to four daughters, was out on bond for her 3rd OWI charge at the time of the crash. Before Judge Randy Koschnick, Yelk's defense attorney requested five years in prison with 15 years of extended supervision.

"This is a person that recognizes she has a problem with alcohol. She has not yet found the keys to unlock what it's going to take for her to overcome that addiction," defense attorney Joseph Fischer says.

But Yelk's apology... her plea for forgiveness fell short with Kerr's family.

"She was talking about how she was being pulled away from her 4 daughters... which is no comparison to us losing our daughter -- not just being pulled away but actually losing our daughter," Pam Rockstroh says.

"I gotta go to a grave site to see my daughter," Tom Rockstroh says, "It's just not fair."

Yelk's attorney says it's too early to say whether Yelk will appeal. The state had requested a sentence of 22 and a half years in prison.

Kerr's family also took the opportunity to call tougher drunken driving laws in Wisconsin.

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