Woman sentenced to five years' probation, alcohol treatment program after 2011 car crash that injured son

Monday, October 15, 2012 | 10:13 p.m. CDT; updated 11:05 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 16, 2012

COLUMBIA — A Columbia woman was sentenced to five years' probation and ordered to attend a court-sponsored alcohol treatment program in connection with a 2011 car crash that injured her son.

Elizabeth Klaus pleaded guilty in August to one count of second-degree assault for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol resulting in an injury and one count of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child. She was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol in August 2011 after crashing her vehicle into a creek bank off of Route E near Wilcox Road and injuring her son, who was 5 years old at the time.

Before Klaus's sentencing Monday, the court heard from Casey Creason, a witness who testified to seeing Klaus drive off the road.

Creason said he could not tell whether Lucas Klaus was in safety restraints while the vehicle was in motion, but he did testify that he found the child under the front passenger seat immediately after the accident.

Bruce Klaus, the father of Elizabeth Klaus and grandfather of Lucas Klaus, read a victim impact statement before the court on behalf of his grandson.

Bruce Klaus said he was sure Lucas Klaus doesn't consider himself a victim or blame Elizabeth Klaus for his injuries.

Bruce Klaus then asked Judge Jodie Asel to consider sentencing Elizabeth Klaus to probation and drug treatment.

"That would be the best possible outcome for our daughter and certainly for our grandson," Bruce Klaus said.

Elizabeth Klaus's defense attorney, Rusty Antel, stated that following the accident she went through a 3o-day rehabilitation program at the Valley Hope Drug Rehab Center in Boonville. Since completing the program, Elizabeth Klaus has continued to receive care from the facility and support from a sponsor. 

"In this situation she has done a lot to get herself into a much better space," Antel said.

Boone County Assistant Prosecutor Brent Matthew Nelson said Elizabeth Klaus already had two DWI charges prior to this case and recommended she serve six years in prison.

"The ultimate point is that the one person who should not have put Lucas Klaus in that position is Elizabeth Klaus," Nelson said.

Elizabeth Klaus spoke before the court shortly before sentencing. She asked the court not to separate her from her son and took responsibility for the accident.

"My disease got the better of me that day," Elizabeth Klaus said. "My son is my world. I just want you to consider keeping me a part of my son's life."

Elizabeth Klaus will attend the alternative sentencing court Oct. 25 before Circuit Court Judge Michael Bradley for evaluation and treatment, Antel said. 

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Harold Sutton October 16, 2012 | 1:21 p.m.

Well, I understand the need for (a) parent(s) to be with their children. However, there is a conflict of punishment guidelines here. The extremes are obvious!! Community service and some weekends of incarceration should be applied or else revisit a lot of other DUI/DWI sentences that have been handed down.

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