Driver pleads guilty in Middleton crash that killed three teens

The man accused of homicide in a crash that killed three high school students in Middleton last fall pleaded guilty Thursday.
Published: Jul. 28, 2022 at 4:03 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 28, 2022 at 9:50 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The man accused of homicide in a crash that killed three high school students in Middleton last fall pleaded guilty Thursday.

Eric Mehring, 31, pleaded guilty to three counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle.

Judge Ellen Berz dismissed three counts of second-degree reckless homicide and two counts of second-degree reckless endangering safety.

A not guilty plea was entered for the 31-year-old Mehring in January, but court records updated in April to indicate that he would be changing his plea. He first appeared in court in October of last year at which time a cash bond for $75,000 per case, plus additional restrictions should he be released, was set. His family reportedly posted the amount and Mehring was released the next day.

According to police, Mehring was behind the wheel the night of Oct. 2, 2021, when his 2016 Jaguar crashed into the back of the Chevrolet Cruze the three teens were in. Two Middleton High School students, John “Jack” Miller and Evan Kratochwill, along with a Madison West High School student Simon Bilessi, died in the crash. The complaint revealed all three died from blunt force trauma injuries caused by the crash.

The Dane County Sheriff’s Office released a statement Thursday on behalf of the Miller family.

“While it is appropriate that Eric Mehring took responsibility for his actions, his guilty plea can never take away the pain we feel every single day without our son, Jack. Eric Mehring deliberately and thoughtlessly chose to drive under the extreme influence of alcohol at an unimaginable speed. His selfish choices have deprived Jack, Evan, and Simon of the future lives they so richly deserved,” the statement read.

(l-r) Simon Bilessi, Evan Kratochwill, and John "Jack" Miller
(l-r) Simon Bilessi, Evan Kratochwill, and John "Jack" Miller(Jon Szczepanski/Wisocnsin Rush Soccer Club & Middleton-Cross Plains School District)

Mehring’s attorney, Chris Van Wagner, said Mehring was pleased in letting the families get justice.

“This is a very sad case and this is a very hard day, but things are moving to a closure,” Van Wagner said. “My client from the day this accident happened has thought about these young men, whose lives he caused the death of. He’s thought about them every day.”

A search warrant released last October showed Mehring allegedly had a breath alcohol content value of 0.24, three times the legal 0.08 blood alcohol content limit. The warrant stated Mehring told investigators that he had two rum and Cokes at a Cross Plains bar prior to the crash. A deputy described his eyes afterwards as “glossy and bloodshot.”

Mehring also allegedly admitted he was going approximately 30 mph over the 45 mph speed limit right before his vehicle struck the teens’ car, the warrants stated. A criminal complaint shed more light on what Mehring told investigators. He reportedly described going over “a little hill” and seeing brake lights in front of him. Mehring recalled “going too fast for conditions,” the complaint quoted him as saying, and admitting he did not brake hard enough.

When a deputy asked him how fast he had been going, Mehring reportedly responded “about 75″ and, when asked why he was going that fast, he blamed “over confidence.”

Middleton fiery crash
Middleton fiery crash(WMTV)

Witnesses told a detective on the night of the crash that they saw Mehring’s Jaguar headed the wrong way down Mineral Point Road and they had to swerve into the ditch to avoid it, the complaint continued. The witnesses’ Honda Odyssey was still in the ditch, near Welcome Drive, when they spoke with authorities.

Homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle is a class D felony, which means the penalty could include a fine no higher than $100,000 or a prison sentence no longer than 25 years, or both. Van Wagner noted it is up to the judge to decide if the sentences are made concurrent or consecutive.

A presentence investigation report will be ordered for Mehring, Judge Berz said. His sentencing hearing will take place at 1 p.m. on Dec. 9. Van Wagner said Mehring would accept whatever sentence he was given.

“He doesn’t know what the judge is going to give him,” Van Wagner said. “He’ll accept what she gives him. He really wants them to be able to heal in some way, so that maybe some day they can at least understand that he really has been remorseful from the instant he realized what happened.”

Full statement from the Miller family:

Today is another extremely difficult day for all three families whose sons were so cruelly stolen from them.

We appreciate the hard work of the Dane County Sheriff's Office, especially their detectives and investigators, and the District Attorney's Office in making today possible.

While it is appropriate that Eric Mehring took responsibility for his actions, his guilty plea can never take away the pain we feel every single day without our son, Jack.

Eric Mehring deliberately and thoughtlessly chose to drive under the extreme influence of alcohol at an unimaginable speed. His selfish choices have deprived Jack, Evan, and Simon of the future lives they so richly deserved.

The Miller Family

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