‘I told him I didn’t hate him. I forgive him for what he did.’

Adam Droesch, whose drunken driving killed his best friend, gets light sentence with support from victim’s family
Tuesday, April 10, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:10 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

A former MU student was sentenced Monday to five years’ probation for driving drunk and causing a crash that killed his best friend in May 2006.

Adam Droesch, 22, of St. Louis, pleaded guilty on Jan. 8 to first-degree involuntary manslaughter and two counts of second-degree assault. He was facing up to 30 years in prison, but the victim’s parents asked the court to show leniency in deciding Droesch’s sentence.

“No amount of jail time would ever compare to the amount of remorse he feels,” the victim’s father, Gerald Keeven, said, reading from a letter he had written to Boone County Circuit Judge Gene Hamilton. He told the judge that he made the request without “misgivings or hesitation.”

The accident happened in May 2006, when Droesch lost control of the car he was driving after he tried to pass another car on Grindstone Parkway near Rock Quarry Road, the Missourian reported in January. The car tumbled down an embankment.

Columbia police said Droesch had three times the legal limit of alcohol in his bloodstream and reported finding beer cans in the car.

Droesch had two other passengers in the car that night: James Baker, 23, of Poplar Bluff, and James Danchus, 23, of Columbia. Both were injured. Greg Keeven, an 18-year-old student at the University of Missouri-Rolla, died of a head injury at University Hospital two days after the crash.

Keeven had come to town for Droesch’s graduation from MU.

At Monday’s sentencing, members and friends of the Droesch and Keeven families filled the first four rows of the courtroom, exchanging hugs.

When Droesch’s name was called, his parents, John and Judith Droesch, held hands tightly as they sat next to their son, who was dressed in a dark suit and tie.

Before Hamilton read his sentence, Droesch’s attorney, Patrick Eng, called Gerald Keeven to address the court.

As he recalled how he had learned that his son was involved in a serious accident, Gerald Keeven fought back tears. He talked about the remorse he knew Droesch felt for his son’s death.

“I told him I didn’t hate him,” he said, choking back sobs. “I forgive him for what he did.”

Gerald Keeven said that he wanted a drunken driving awareness class to be a requirement for all students in the University of Missouri System.

After the sentencing, Adam Droesch hugged his family and friends. He walked over to Greg Keeven’s mother, Mary.

“Thank you, Mommy,” he said softly, tears streaming down his face. “Thank you for your support.”

Both families said they were happy with Monday’s outcome.

“Our wishes were taken into consideration,” said Mary Keeven, Greg’s mother. “What Adam is living with is worse than any sentencing.”

“I love (Droesch) like a son,” she continued, crying as she stood in the hallway outside the courtroom. “I don’t want to see anything bad happen to him.”

John Droesch, Adam’s father, said the sentence was “more than fair.”

“I don’t know that I would have been as forgiving,” he said. “The support, the forgiveness, the love this family has shown is just beyond description.”

Since the accident, John Droesch said, his son thinks about Greg Keeven’s death daily. He said that his son is working at the same grocery store that he has since he was 16 and that he continues to have trouble finding a better job.

As part of his probation, Droesch will complete 200 hours of community service, which will include participating in victim impact panels and doing other work with organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Eng, who has practiced law for 34 years in Columbia, marveled after the sentencing at the forgiveness the Keeven family demonstrated.

“It’s the first time I’ve had anything like this,” Eng said. “Usually the victims are calling for the person’s head. This is the first time it’s been the opposite.”

A portion of this report first aired Monday during “News At 10” on KMIZ/Channel 17 ABC, Columbia.

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