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Driver jailed for 18 years for killing two cyclists

"Even if he had been sentenced to 98 years in prison it would not have been an ‘eye for an eye.’"...

A motorist in the USA has been jailed for 18 years after he killed two cyclists with his SUV before fleeing the scene.

Ryan Miettinen Jr, struck Coleen Huling, 29, and Melissa Williamson, 25, and was charged with two counts of failure to stop at the scene of an accident when at fault, resulting in death.

After the 22-year-old struck a plea deal a judge sentenced him to between 9 to 40 years in prison on each count.

Miettinen must serve at least 18 of those years before becoming eligible for parole, and could potentially spend all 80 years behind bars.

The judge also ordered him to pay a total of $250,200 (£179,040) in compensation.

The collision, which took place on 26 June 2020, occurred in London Township, Michigan, Outside Online report.

Miettinen is reported to have been driving recklessly when he hit Huling and Williamson—he swerved, struck them, and then sped away. 

His speed was in excess of 60 miles per hour; the speed limit on that street is 45 mph. 

The investigation showed that Miettinen had been smoking marijuana earlier in the day, though intoxication could not be proven. 

Huling and Williamson were a young couple who loved exploring the rivers and trails near their home in Ypsilanti, Michigan and had just signed a lease to move in together.

The Friday afternoon they were killed by Miettinen in his Mercury Mountaineer SUV, the pair were riding their bikes from Huling’s parents’ home, where they had been pet-sitting, into town to get some food.

Matthew Williamson, Melissa's dad, is also a keen cyclist and had been training with his daughter for the 328-mile Pan Ohio Hope Ride in the weeks leading up to her death.

He said: “No amount of time will bring our daughters back."

However, he acknowledged the rarity of the length of the custodial sentence: “As a cyclist myself, I am all too aware that many individuals are under-prosecuted in these circumstances.

 “Sometimes it is due to lack of existing case law. Other times it is because of an underlying perception that bikes have no business on the road.” 

In an impact statement, Kerri Williamson, Melissa’s mother, wrote that the average life expectancy for a woman today is 76 years. 

She continued: “So, in my opinion, Ryan stole 51 years of Melissa’s life and 47 from Coleen. 

"Even if he had been sentenced to 98 years in prison it would not have been an ‘eye for an eye.’ 

"He will continue to get to have contact with those he loves. I can’t say that I am ‘happy’, because I feel that is doing an injustice to my daughter and Coleen, but it is what I had hoped for.” 

Between 1971 and 2019, there were 132 cyclists killed by drivers in the Washington, D.C., area, and 87 percent of the drivers weren’t charged with a crime. Only 8 percent served time.

Megan Hottman, an attorney in Golden, Colorado, who has been handling cycling cases for 11 years, said: “In general, the criminal-justice system looks at cycling cases—meaning a driver hitting a cyclist—as ‘just an accident...

“It’s so significant when a judge shows a case like this the attention it deserves."

 

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