Court upholds DWI sentence

Tuesday, January 29, 2008 | 7:57 p.m. CST; updated 12:42 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — The sentence of a Columbia woman who was drunk when she caused a car crash that killed a Columbia man in 2005 was upheld by a Missouri appellate court Tuesday.

On Feb. 24, 2006, Martha L. Miller, then 38, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter in connection with a car crash that killed Richard C. Greenplate, 34, of Columbia.

Miller, who originally pleaded not guilty, changed her plea to guilty after her public defender informed her that she would be eligible for parole after serving 40 percent of her sentence, according to the appeals court’s opinion. State law requires her to serve at least 85 percent.

But the appeals court, in affirming the decision of Boone County Circuit Judge Gene Hamilton, agreed with the circuit court that Miller’s assertion that she would have stuck to her not guilty plea and risked a jury trial was “incredible.”

On Nov. 27, 2005, Miller’s 1995 Ford Explorer crossed over the center line on Broadway near Scott Boulevard and struck Greenplate’s car head-on, according to a probable cause statement. Miller’s nieces, ages 10 and 15, were in the SUV with her. They were not seriously injured.

Greenplate was pronounced dead at the scene.

Miller’s blood alcohol content was later found to be .18 percent, according to court records. The legal limit in Missouri is .08 percent. At the time of the crash, Miller’s license was suspended, and she was on an administrative alcohol suspension from a DWI conviction 17 days before the car crash.

Regina Greenplate, Richard Greenplate’s wife, filed a wrongful death lawsuit on Feb. 15, 2007, against Miller, according to Missouri Greenplate’s attorney, Chris Rackers, said the case that listed Greenplate and her four children was settled “shortly thereafter.” He would not disclose the amount of the settlement.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Regina Greenplate said she’d heard that Miller lost her appeal, but she did not want to comment.

Miller is being held at the Chillicothe Correctional Center, and her first parole hearing is set for May 2012, said Brian Hauswirth, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Corrections.

“She won’t go anywhere for at least the next four and a half years,” he said.

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