Drunk driver sentenced to three years in prison

Tuesday, July 10, 2007 | 2:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:59 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Susan Duckworth hobbled on crutches to the front of a Boone County courtroom Monday morning.

“I can’t walk, I have to take medicine all the time, and I can’t do the things I used to enjoy,” said Duckworth, 49.

She cried as she described the hardship she has experienced since March 27, 2006, the night Ben Miller, of Matthews, N.C., crashed into her car on Interstate 70.

After her victim impact statement, Boone County Presiding Judge Gene Hamilton sentenced Miller to three years in prison. He pleaded guilty to second-degree assault on May 14.

Miller, 23, was driving home from Hooters about 10:30 p.m. after drinking six beers when he crossed the median on I-70 and hit Duckworth’s car head-on, according to a probable cause statement signed by Columbia police Officer Dan Wright.

Miller smelled like beer and his speech was extremely slurred and incoherent, according to the statement. He was unaware he’d caused the crash.

“It was clear to me that he was heavily intoxicated,” Wright wrote.

Duckworth suffered a broken leg and had five surgeries after the wreck, including two bone grafts, she said. She was in a wheelchair for six months after the accident and has been on crutches for more than a year. Duckworth told the court her daughter, who is about the same age as Miller, has had to help take care of her since Miller hit her car.

Miller was hospitalized with a dislocated hip after the crash, according to the probable cause statement.

As Duckworth addressed the court, Miller cried. He said that he had spent his life trying to make his family proud but that the events of that night changed everything.

“I can’t ask for forgiveness because I don’t deserve it,” he said. “But I will be a good person and try to make it up to her.”

He told the judge how sorry he was for what happened that night and then apologized to Duckworth after the hearing.

But Duckworth said that Miller made no attempt to contact her and apologize earlier and that his sentence changed nothing.

“I’m upset because nothing that happens is going to change my life,” she said.

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