Friends and family of a Greenwood man who died in a 2013 crash remembered him as a loving and caring father, brother and son in a sentencing hearing for the woman who was driving the car that killed him.
About 10 people told the court about Tyler Deputy, 19, and the family he left behind, including a 3-year-old daughter who still asks to see him.
When Daisy asks to see her father, her mother Kindra Sizemore has to drive to a cemetery. Daisy will never understand who her father was or how much he loved her because Tabitha Walters did not have the self-control to stop drinking or choose to not to get behind the wheel that day, Sizemore said.
Walters, 35, 278 Winthrop Road, Whiteland, was sentenced to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to causing death when operating a motor vehicle with an alcohol content of .15 percent or more, causing death when operating a motor vehicle with a controlled substance in the blood and operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
Police said Walters had been drinking at a bar for five or six hours before getting into her car May 11, 2013. Lab tests showed her blood-alcohol content was .37 percent — more than four times the legal limit — and she also had marijuana and prescription drug Xanax in her system at the time of the accident. Walters said she does not remember taking Xanax or using marijuana.
She was also out of jail on bond at the time of the accident on a charge of driving while intoxicated in Johnson County from October 2012. Walters had been arrested three times for drunken driving before the accident, starting in 2008, including in Marion County and in Greenwood.
Being arrested for drunken driving should have been enough of a wake-up call for Walters, Superior Court 3 Judge Lance Hamner said. Instead, Walters lived out the worst case scenario that could have happened, Hamner said.
“After you knew it was wrong, you did it again,” he said.
Since being arrested in 2013, Walters has remained in the Johnson County jail and participated in drug, alcohol and rehabilitation programs. In addition to acknowledging being an alcoholic, Walters wants mental health treatment for being victimized earlier in her life, she said. Walters’ attorney John Norris had asked for Walters to receive home detention instead of prison time so she could get into alcohol and rehabilitation programs outside of the jail system.
The advisory sentence was 10 years in prison, but Hamner gave Walters the aggravated sentence of 18 years, he said. Walters’ license also will be suspended for the maximum of two years, he said. She will get more than two years of credit toward her sentence for the time she has spent in jail.
“Ms. Walters is exactly the type of person who should go to prison,” Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper said. “You’re a repeat drunk driver.”
Walters was driving on South Emerson Avenue in Whiteland when she struck Deputy, who was walking to his father’s house about 3 miles away from his apartment. The speed limit is 40 mph, and at least three witnesses had told police that it looked like Walters had been speeding.
After the accident, Deputy was taken to Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, where he died.
Two years after Deputy’s death, his mother Laurie Campbell said she still worries about whether her son is OK.
There are no words in any language to describe the horrific ordeal she and his family went through the day he died, she said. Earlier that day, Deputy took his little sister to pick out a costume for a class presentation. She never gave that presentation because of Deputy’s death, Campbell said.
More than 30 people were in the courtroom for the sentencing, and more than 40 friends and relatives wrote letters on Walters’ behalf to the court, sharing stories about her demeanor and the remorse she feels about the accident and death of Deputy.
“This weighs heavily on my heart,” Walters said during her sentencing. “I wish I could change everything about that day.”
As soon as Walters heard Deputy had died at the hospital, she considered killing herself, Walters said.
“She said, ‘I killed somebody, Mom. My life is over,’” Walters’ mother Theresa Tester said.